MS Estonia: Private expedition begins diving to examine wreckage from 1994 ferry disaster
A privately funded expedition began examining the wreckage of the MS Estonia ferry that sank in 1994.
The research was commissioned by relatives of the victims of the disaster, with the aim of obtaining more information on the fate of the ship.
A total of 852 people were killed when the MS Estonia sank in September 1994, in Europe’s worst peacetime maritime disaster.
The ship was traveling overnight from the Estonian capital Tallinn to Stockholm in Sweden when it sank in rough seas. Only 137 of the 989 people on board survived, while most of the victims were Swedes and Estonians.
The 1997 joint official investigation of Estonia, Finland and Sweden concluded that the ferry sank when the locks on its front door failed during a storm, flooding the decks in just 20 minutes.
But the latest dive, organized by an Estonia-based fund, aims to “find answers to questions” that official joint and separate investigations have failed to provide.
The wreck of the MS Estonia rests on the seabed 80 meters below the surface in international waters near the Finnish island of Uto.
The wreck in the Baltic Sea is considered a cemetery, which gives the area legal protection.
The sinking has produced a number of conspiracy theories and some survivors say all previous research into the crash hid the true cause.
A recent documentary raised further doubts when it discovered new holes in the ship’s hull with a robot diver.
“Although over these decades many different inquiries have been carried out, they have not been able to give the survivors and relatives of those who died comprehensive answers as to why Estonia perished”, the Mare Liberum fund said in a statement.
The fund, which was established in July, announced that it would carry out the two-week diving expedition, costing around â¬ 800,000.
The project will use a research vessel leased from German company RS Offshore, equipped with four underwater robots, while four divers will provide support.
One of the objectives is to map the damage to Estonia’s hull, create a 3D scan and study the surroundings.
The expedition is led by Margus Kurm, a former Estonian state investigator into the sinking of the ferry.
It was not immediately clear what sort of position the governments of Estonia, Finland and Sweden would take on the parallel private shipment.
A new official investigation was launched in July and a dive by Estonian and Swedish authorities is expected in spring 2022.
Kurm promised to share his findings with authorities, saying the private review could be “constructive competition.”
“This investigation is very important for us in order to find the real reason for the sinking of the MS Estonia,” said Lennart Berglund, head of an SEA group which supports the families of the victims in Sweden.
“There will be no one from SEA or the Swedish side as it is still illegal for Swedes to participate in dives in Estonia,” he added.