The bow ramp of the MS Estonia, an Estonian-Swedish ferry that sank in 1994 with the loss of 852 people, is planned to be brought up from the bottom of the Baltic Sea for examination.
The salvage operation is expected to take place this summer, Jonas Backstrand, the head of the Swedish accident investigation authority SHK said on 18 April, according to BNS.
The bow visor of the MS Estonia was salvaged soon after the disaster; however, the bow ramp remains at the bottom of the sea. The Swedish government has allocated SEK25 million (€2.2 million) for the salvage operation.
There are damages in the bow ramp that are to be examined. Backstrand said there was no reason to believe the salvaging of the ramp will change the understanding of the course of the sinking of the ship, according to BNS.
In 2020, a documentary that premiered on a Swedish TV channel, showed that the wreck of the sunken cruise ferry had a large, previously unreported hole in the hull. In December the same year, Sweden said it would allow a new inspection of the wreck.
In the wake of the revelations in the Swedish documentary, the close relatives of the people who died in the sinking of MS Estonia organised a privately funded expedition to the wreck of the ferry in September 2021. The same year, the Estonian Safety Investigation Bureau started carrying out a new state-funded investigation that is ongoing. In June 2022, the investigators of the bureau discovered that the damage on the starboard side of the wreck is considerably greater than previously estimated.
In December 2022, Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper reported that MS Estonia transported military equipment.
The second-deadliest peacetime sinking of a European ship
The MS Estonia, a 16,000-ton cruise ferry that began serving the Tallinn-Stockholm route in 1993 and was operated by the Swedish-Estonian shipping company, Estline, was the largest ship sailing under the Estonian flag at the time. In fact, the elegant white and blue coloured ferry was seen as one of the symbols of newly found confidence of the young republic that had just regained independence, three years prior.
But in the morning of 28 September 1994, the entire country of Estonia woke up in shock to the news that the MS Estonia had sunk in the early hours. For Estonians, it was their very own “Kennedy moment” – everyone who was alive at the time, remembers where they were and what they were doing upon hearing the news.
The ship sank in the Baltic Sea while on a scheduled crossing, en route from Tallinn to Stockholm, where she had been expected in the morning. MS Estonia disappeared from the radar screens of other ships at around 01:50 EEST in international waters, about 22 nautical miles (41 kilometres) from the Finnish island of Utö. The ferry sank to the depth of 74 to 85 metres (243 to 279 ft) of water.
The official disaster report said the fatal event started when the locks on the ferry’s bow door failed from the strain of the waves and the door separated from the rest of the vessel, pulling the ramp behind it ajar. This allowed water into the vehicle deck, capsizing, and ultimately sinking the ship.
The lobby groups representing the victims’ families were never content with the results of the official report and over the years demanded on several occasions a new investigation.