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Welcome to a chapter of the e-book Disaster Investigation.

2.22 More incompetent Investigators. Strange Changes of the SOLAS Rules

Based on the statements of the Commission in October 1994 several national maritime administrations reported to the IMO that the 'Estonia' sank due to water on the car deck in the superstructure (even if the alleged proximate causes of accident of the Commission were defective visor lock design and manufacture).

The IMO reacted immediately. Its Secretary General, W.A. O'Neill, or the Marine Safety Committee, MSC, December 1994 appointed a special panel to "review everything involved in ro-ro/passenger ferry operations", which was done in three months (sic) spring 1995.

Quick work. Incompetent work.

The panel then proposed several SOLAS rule changes to the MSC in May 1995, which were adopted by the MSC in December 1995. The expert panel evidently had no access to any 'official' findings of the 'Estonia' accident. No real experts were permitted to attend the meetings of the 'special' panel..

The procedure was evidently not as per the IMO procedures, how the rules shall be changed in several ways. Normally a proposal, supported by proven facts and good arguments, is made to the MSC, which in turn refers the proposal to its subcommittees for formal safety analysis, FSA, etc. before the next MSC meeting. The subcommittees verify and discuss the proposal and report back to the MSC six months later. Then further discussions and verifications are made before approval by a later MSC meeting. Even after approval there is a long time before implementation, when unclear items can be sorted out.

In this case an arbitrary 'special panel' proposed rule changes directly to the MSC, which approved them without FSA or any discussion in December 1995, two years before the Final report of the Commission was available for scrutiny. No discussions in sub-committées, where the technical experts were, were permitted. For a detailed review of the rule changes see chapter 5 in (1).

None of the members of the 'special panel' knew anything about ferries, stability and ferry safety rules. And they got incorrect information from the 'Estonia' Commission:


"IMO started its work in December 1994, but had little concrete information on the Estonia casualty to guide its work. The preliminary report of the Joint Accident Investigation Commission (JAIC) of Estonia, Finland and Sweden1 was not available until April 1995, by which time many of the Panel's recommendations has been finalised and were in the process of being submitted to the MSC. The final report was not published until December 1997 - five months after some of the new SOLAS regulations had entered into force.

Some years later the report of the JAIC has been held to be self-contradictory and alleged correspondence with one of the commissioners is quoted as supporting a sequence of events that is inconsistent with the information that was available to the IMO."

Rule Changes without Foundation

All the rule changes were based on unproven 'information' from the Commission. Most of this 'information' has since been proven to be disinformation. The IMO never verified the statements of the Commission! Many of the rule changes are plainly stupid: only two examples here: the walls of escape routes (corridors with passenger cabins) shall be constructed so that you can walk on them! The ship is assumed to be listing 90 degrees - the wall is the floor!

But no ship is stable with a 90 degrees list!

Nobody will ever walk on a corridor wall after an accident. So why build a corridor wall like that? Another example: all roro-passenger ferries shall have a fast rescue boat that can be launched and recovered in severe weather. The only result so far, year 2001, is that seamen have been killed and injured when trying to launch and recover the rescue boat is severe weather and that the IMO has recommended that the rule is not applied.

The IMO distorted views from 1997 on the 'Estonia' accident can be seen on the IMO web page and document page 17 onwards. The IMO believes that "the 'Estonia' capsized (sic) in a severe storm in the north Baltic Sea and sank with the loss of more than 900 lives." The IMO still doesn't know that the 'Estonia' never capsized at all, but sank slowly during 30 minutes after a sudden listing and re-established stability at less heel. 852 dead is the official number of losses. The 'Estonia' never capsized.

The IMO states 1997 that "Preliminary inquiries showed that the outer bow door of the ship had been ripped off during the storm, allowing water to accumulate on the car deck to such an extent that the ship quickly listed and then rolled over and sank ... to the bottom several hundred meters (sic) below".

The IMO never bothered sooner or later to verify these 'preliminary' inquiries. It would have been very easy 1994 to verify that the 'Estonia' only sank at 70-80 meters depth (look at a chart) but it would also have been very simple to have refuted the suggestion that 'allowing water to accumulate on the car deck' inside a superstructure would have caused sinking.

This event is the biggest mistake of the IMO in its history. And it is quietly covered up by the IMO Secretary General William O'Neill.

The IMO did not calculate the Stability with Water in the Superstructure

Unfortunately neither the IMO 'special panel' 1995 under Danish chairmanship (Funder) nor the MSC made a simple stability calculation of a roro-passenger ferry floating on its intact hull with water loaded on the car deck in the superstructure above the hull to establish that the ship then turns turtle in a very short time - and floats upside down - on the hull. The IMO experts - to review the Estonia information and 'everything involved in ro-ro/passenger ferry operations' and propose SOLAS amendments - were as incompetent as the Commission.

It is quite embarrassing that the IMO (Mr Funder of the Danish Maritime administration was in charge of the 'special panel') never checked what would happen with water on the 'Estonia' car deck in the superstructure or how the 'Estonia' would have sunk due to the alleged cause of the Commission without turning upside down and floating upside down before any sinking could have taken place. Funder was later given a medal by the IMO for his work - personality of the year. What a stupid circus.

The IMO 'experts' did not verify anything - they changed SOLAS rules without listening to any real experts at all. A real scandal and tragedy in the history of the IMO.

Interestingly the IMO/MSC refused to accept the proposal of the expert panel about a 'no-water-on-the-car-deck-in the superstructure' rule as international standard for ferries type the 'Estonia'. Actually the majority of the IMO members were fed up with the comedy and stopped the most stupid proposal.

Only some Northwest European countries accepted this so called Stockholm agreement (Resolution 14) by bilateral agreements. No intelligent discussion amongst stability experts was permitted - no tests were done to verify, if the rules were realistic. According to the Greek professor of naval architecture A. Papanikolaou, Athens, the scientific base of the Stockholm agreement is questionable (stated year1999) to say the least. Resolution 14 predicts theoretical water inflows on the bulkhead deck of a superstructure through a hole in the side (sic), while the ferry is rolling (sic) helplessly in very severe weather (after a collision (sic) and that two compartments in the hull below the car deck are flooded). This 'theory' and the assumptions had been made with the same methods of the 'Estonia' scientific reports, i.e. they could not be questioned or discussed and were not based on any scientific logic. The theoretical rules suggest that large amounts of water accumulate on the roro-deck above water.

The alternative was luckily model tests (with two compartments flooded due to collision (sic)) in severe weather. Model tests have later shown that much less water flows in than predicted by the theoretical rules, so you hardly have to make any modifications at all to existing ferries based on model tests.

Water on the Car Deck does not sink the Ship, even if it is damaged

What happens when a damaged ferry (two compartments are flooded!) rolls in severe weather? First of all - the ferry is still stable as per SOLAS 60 or 90 damage stability criteria and the bulkhead deck is above water. Initially there is no water on the car deck , but the ship is assumed to roll in the severe weather and it is alleged that water flows in, when the bulkhead deck due to roll is below water for a short time. Say that the opening is in the side midships - water flows in when the opening is under water (actually it flows up through the hole in the bulkhead deck from the flooded compartment below) - and when the ship rolls to the other side, the water end up on the other side (unless it flows out through the hole in the damaged deck). The ship then evidently lists on the undamaged side (very good) and it is not so easy to roll back and submerge the deck on the damaged side again.

Note that the water on the car deck is just extra weight - cargo - loaded on the car deck of the damaged but floating ship below its centre of gravity. The ferry is still floating on the undamaged compartments of the hull as per the SOLAS damage criteria and there is no risk of sinking - the only risk is capsizing and floating upside down. If the ferry rolls back again to the damaged side, the water on the bulkhead deck of course flows over to that side and blocks the opening, so that no more water can flow in.

Say that the opening is at one of the ends. The ship then trims on that end and, when it rolls, water can of course flow in on top of the bulkhead deck. But due to the trim the water cannot accumulate on the bulkhead deck - it is sloping towards the opening and flows out. Etc., etc. Many model tanks have observed the above, which of course demonstrates that the theoretical rules of the Stockholm agreement are false, but they do not complain and are silent. All northern European maritime administrations have been informed about the same observed results - and they are also silent. Nobody wants the state that the Stockholm agreement is incorrect and does not contribute to safety at sea.

Norway in the Lead

Norway adopted Resolution 14 (the Stockholm agreement) very fast and thought that model tests would give the same results. Norwegian owners were then forced to fit watertight doors on the car decks of all their ferries, even if their contribution to safety is nil. The scandal has been covered up by common silence.

The requirements of the Stockholm agreement do not contribute to better safety at sea, 3.21 and 1.37. But it was a good publicity stunt - everybody in Northern Europe initially praised the Stockholm agreement and now they are quiet. Large amounts of money have been wasted.

All rules and regulations about safety at sea are based on earlier accident investigations starting with Plimsoll and the Titanic, Torrey Canyon, etc. You cannot develop better and more correct rules without proper accident investigations and damage analysis as per IMO resolutions A.440 (XI), A.637 (16) and A.849(20). Sweden, Finland and Estonia ignored completely these resolutions and produced a false accident investigation report instead.

The IMO SOLAS rule changes 1995 as a result of the 'Estonia' accident 1994 were not done as per the regular procedures of the IMO. The IMO accepted unverified statements by the Commission without evidence. No FSA was done to substantiate the new rules. Most of the new rules do not contribute to safety. And nobody at the IMO dares to investigate the matter today - 2001.

Actually - most staff of the IMO seems to be happy to cover up the 'Estonia' accident. Quite sad.


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