Welcome to a chapter of the e-book Disaster Investigation.
1.13 Many Errors in 'the most probable Cause'. The Plot of Utö disappears
The Commission never explained to the public 1994-1997 that the ferry 'Estonia' consisted of three distinct parts - (a) the watertight hull on which she was floating, (b) the weather tight superstructure on top of the hull, where cars and trucks were parked, which contributed to stability at large angles of heel (if intact) and (c) the open deck house on top of the superstructure, where most passengers and crew stayed, which didn't contribute to any positive stability at all - rather the opposite - it was just a big weight reducing stability and trying to turn the ship upside down.
Point 1.12-1 states that three visor locks have been broken and how. It was not pointed out that the visor was attached to the superstructure. Regarding the time 01.15 hrs you have to remark that several surviving passengers had stated another time, 01.02 hrs, for a completely different event
Point 1.12-2 is a proposal that the visor moved up and down around the deck hinges (and hit against the forepeak deck). There is no evidence for that. Nobody saw, heard or felt these events. The testimonies that the visor was moving have simply been made up. The forepeak deck, against which the visor should have hit, is undamaged. In 2.1 expert Schager summarizes the testimonies of 122 survivors. Nobody talked about a visor moving up and down.
Point 1.12-3. How did the Commission know that the visor had dislodged the ramp, when neither the visor had been found nor the ramp and its locks had been examined? If the visor fell off, when the ship was in an upright position, then the visor must have pushed the ramp forward.
The visor could of course have been lost, after the ship started to heel and when the ferry had a big list, without touching the ramp, but then no water would have entered the superstructure. How the Commission could have eliminated that possibility is not described in the Final Report (5). Or how the very poor port hinge may have broken, when the ship sank, and the visor was still hanging from the ship attached by the starboard hinge? But then the visor should have been found at the wreck.
Partly open Ramp
Point 1.12-4. Note that the Commission states that the ramp protecting the superstructure was partly open/leaking, evidently because some crewmembers in the engine control room, ECR, were alleged to have stated exactly that, but these three persons stayed in the ECR for seven minutes after the listing and should have seen a completely open ramp. No survivors have seen an open ramp and, if the ramp were only leaking, enough water (>600 tons) to suddenly list the ship (>15 degrees) could not have entered into the superstructure in less than 10-15 minutes. The Commission was conscious of these facts, when it announced them. In two internal and secret status reports dated 24 and 28 October 1994 (act A32*) Stenström writes (in paragraph 10 in both reports) about a partly open ramp:
"(10) The openings along the sides of the forward ramp may have had an effective area of 0,2-0,5 m². It may have permitted that one or two cubic meters of water per second may have entered the car deck and that enough water to cause a loss of stability (sic - capsize?) had collected during 500 - 1 000 seconds".
According Stenström it should have taken 8 - 16 minutes to fill up the car deck in the superstructure through an, at the edges, leaking ramp with 500 or 2 000 tons of water, i.e. the crew should have had ample time to notice this event and to stop the ship and to prevent the capsize.
Stenström then thought (or calculated) correctly that a certain amount of water - 2 000 tons - would cause total loss of stability, i.e. capsize, but the ship never capsized. Note further that at this time - 17 October 1994 - the Commission still considered that the ramp protecting the superstructure had not been pulled fully open, but thought that it was only partly open during the whole accident.
In spite of the fact that water cannot continuously flow into the superstructure with a velocity of 4-5 m/s four meters above (!) the waterline (which Stenström should have known), the statement means that Stenström knew that you needed about 500-2 000 cubic meters of water on the car deck in the superstructure, so that 'Estonia' should have capsized after 8-16 minutes (sic) of increased heeling moment 2.19.
Later Stenström discovered that it was not possible to present such a scenario - the ship would not have sunk but floated upside down - then the Commission had to change the statement to mean that the ramp protecting the superstructure had been suddenly pulled fully open and that >1 000 tons came in within one minute - listing - but that then that the inflow was considerably reduced, as the list was stable 1.9. As stated earlier the writer met Stenström in London on 31 October 1994 and tried to discuss the matter - Stenström refused flatly.
The writer had known Stenström closely since 1992. We met often to discuss oil tanker safety after collisions and groundings. The writer knew about Stenström by name before that. Stenström had developed clever ideas about crude oil washing of oil tanker cargo tanks and how to measure the oil left in ballast water carried in oil cargo tanks late 1970's and in the 1980's. The writer had at that time developed the Coulombi Egg tanker, which the IMO later (09.1997) approved as better protection of the marine environment than double hull. But after 31 October 1994 Stenström changed character. The writer was then also heavily involved in roro-passenger ferry conversions and up-gradings (SOLAS 90 was coming into force 01.10.94) and very concerned about ferry safety. 1995-1996 Stenström appeared more and more depressed. Stenström died in February 1997 (allegedly by a cancer) and could thus not attend the celebrations when the Coulombi Egg was approved by the IMO in September 1997. Regardless, Stenström had already in October 1996 informed the writer that he (Stenström) never wanted to meet the writer again. Sad story.
In retrospect it is easy to conclude that the Commission had presented a lot of lies previously and that Stenström could not make sense out of all contradictory information.
What all surviving passengers had observed was simply that the ship lost its initial stability, when it suddenly heeled >30 degrees to starboard at about 01.02 hrs, and that the ship soon after was stable again at 15 degrees list at 01.05 hrs, i.e. the 'Estonia' never capsized as the Commission states in points 1.12-4 but was floating with help of the weather tight superstructure. Thereafter the listing increased slowly, until the ship was (still stable) on the side at 01.30 hrs and sank with the stern first - probably at 01.32-01.36 hrs. Such a development could not possibly have been caused by water on the car deck 2.5 meters above the waterline 2.16. And this Stenström knew on 31 October (the writer could see it in the eyes of Stenström. Stenström was lying to the writer!). It means that the falsification of the cause of the accident started very early.
When point 1.12-4 was announced the Commission had apparently still not made proper stability calculations with water on the car deck in the superstructure 1.15.
The Commission (and Stenström) later realized its enormous error because at the next meeting - on15 December 1.17 - it stated that the ramp had been pulled fully open at 01.15 hrs and that large amounts of water had flowed into the superstructure (in spite of the fact that the star witnesses in the ECR had stated the opposite). That this should have caused immediate capsize, the Commission did not realize - or hid from the public. It is then the Commission (and Stenström) really starts to be entangled in a web of contradictory and false statements. It had, e.g. to make up the story that the ramp had closed itself later during the 'accident' - one way or another!
The 'Estonia' was not drifting
Point 1.12-5. In spite of the fact that Finnish shore radar and several other ships saw the 'Estonia' sinking, a false position at a false time of the wreck was announced 1.14. Finnish shore radar staff at Utö is alleged to have stated, that the 'Estonia' sank at 01.48 hrs, but the time is not proven. After the accident a plot was circulated within the Commission, apparently originating from Utö, where, apart from the 'Estonia', also the 'Silja Europa' and the 'Mariella', and other ships were plotted - see figure 17.1 in the Final Report (5) below.
Figure 1.13.1 - Figure 17.1 of the Final Report (5)
All ships in the area were tracked by Finnish shore radar at Utö. You can, e.g. see that the 'Mariella' was about 10 miles astern of the 'Silja Europe' at 01.16 hrs - four minutes before the Mayday! - and that both the 'Silja Symphony' and the 'Isabella' made 21 knots to reach the position of the accident starting at 01.25 hrs. When the rescue operation was reconstructed, the movements of all ships could be established except the 'Estonia'. The 'Estonia' was instead marked with a black dot 1,5 nautical miles South (!) of the correct position of the wreck (?) at 01.40 hrs with a note 'Disappeared from the radar at 01.50 hrs', i.e. it seems that the 'Estonia' was not drifting at all between 01.40 and 01.50 hrs. No explanation to this is given in the Final Report (5). Instead the course of the 'Estonia' was plotted in another diagram developed by Michael Huss and Hans Rosengren much later - the falsification figure 13.2 in (5) 1.9, where the 'Estonia' is drifting with a speed >2 knots at 01.25-01.52 hrs.
The real Plot existed
The real plot of the course of the 'Estonia' has however existed Appendix 5. It was sent from Utö to Helsinki after the accident and the Commission got a copy. Rosengren got a copy from admiral Heimo Iivonen and showed it to the Master of the 'Silja Europa', Esa Mäkelä, in November 1994. Rosengren then said that the plot was "incorrect". Regardless - even an incorrect plot should have been included in the Final report (5) with an explanation why it was incorrect.
A plot of the course of accident actually exists in the SHK Estonia archive - act I4 (Finnish Navy Radar Plot) - recorded by SHK on 2 October 1994. But that plot is only above figure 17.1 from the Final Report (5), which Rosengren (if it is the same plot?) declared 'incorrect', which applies to the position of the 'Estonia' 1,5 miles South of the wreck position at 01.40 hrs. The plot act I4 is dated Utö 28 September 1994 and was sent by fax to the SHK on 1 October. The plot is a copy of another fax sent to somebody at 17.40 hrs on 28 September (probably from Utö to the mainland). It could also be a falsification put into the SHK archive later.
But if the position of the 'Estonia' is incorrect - 1,5 miles too far South - what shall you say about the other information on the plot, which is included in figure 17.1 in the Final report? Is it correct? Is e.g. the time 01.40 hrs for the 'Estonia' correct? And is the statement 'Disappeared from the radar 0150 hrs' correct? That a radar echo disappears 1,5 miles South of an alleged wreck position at 01.50 hrs is no evidence that a ship sank then. But maybe all statements about latitudes were 1,5 miles wrong?
The Master of the 'Mariella' has at questionings in November 1994 stated that the 'Estonia' sank, i.e. disappeared from his radar, at about 01.40 hrs (later changed by the Commission (?) to 01.55 hrs), and this information is used in Part 2 of this book (actually 01.36 hrs as stated by the mate). If the 'Estonia' sank at 01.40 or 01.36 hrs, it is naturally quite impossible that the visor was ripped off at 01.15 hrs and for the 'Estonia' to turn 180 degrees and sink 1 570 meters East of the visor in 21 minutes, 1.9 and 4.3.
Regardless - act I4 confirms that the Utö radar station plotted the 'Mariella' and the Silja Europa' and other ships already from 00.12 hrs, i.e. 50 minutes before the listing occurred at the 'Estonia' at 01.02 hrs as per passenger statements 2.12! Why Utö radar station on 28 September 1994 only plotted the 'Estonia' as a dot is unclear and should be explained by the person sending the fax/plot at 17.40 hrs on 28 September to the Finnish mainland. If the 'Estonia' made a 180° port turn at 01.16-01.20 hrs, as alleged by the Commission, the Utö radar station should have seen it 1.9. Actually Utö should have been in a position to have plotted the fantastic movements - drifting - of the 'Estonia' - 1,5 miles East between 01.20-01.48 hrs - if it actually took place. Actually as Utö shore radar plotted the 'Silja Europa' between 00.12-03.00 hrs and the 'Mariella' between 01.18-01.58 hrs every ten minutes, it must also have plotted the 'Estonia' during the same time, say 01.00-01.36 hrs. The 'Estonia' was just behind the 'Silja Europa' and in front of the 'Mariella'.
Anyway - the statement of the Commission on 17 October 1994 that Utö radar station saw the 'Estonia' sinking at 01.48 hrs is not proven.
Point 1.12-6 does not say in what direction the 'Estonia' should have turned. It is not possible that a Southwest wind/sea turned the ship to port. And two days later, after having found the visor 1.14, the Commission told the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter that
'Nothing in the statements of the crew indicates that the Master managed to turn the ship to return towards Tallinn before she sank'.
One day the 'Estonia' turned after the accident and after the visor had been lost, two days later she did not turn at all after the accident and after losing the visor, and in the Final report (5) the 'Estonia' turns again after the visor fell off and the ramp was pulled fully open. Probably the plot of Utö showed that the 'Estonia' turned (and slowed down?) long before any visor fell off and that was the reason why the plot was censored - or another incorrect plot was produced! And the position of the visor was known, or? 4.3!
False Information about EPIRBS
Point 1.12-7. The Commission stated on 17 October that they had not found the emergency transmitters, the EPIRBs. According to the Final report (5) chapter 8.11 they had been found already on 2 October at Dirhami on the Estonian North coast. Later the Commission has stated that both EPIRBs were switched off and were never activated. No evidence exists for the statement. However, the EPIRBs would not have been activated until the ship sank and the EPIRBs were released - and maybe they were in fact released at about 01.35-01.36 hrs and then sent an alarm. It was maybe the reason to deny their existence. Because the Commission said that the ship sank 15-20 minutes later.
Point 1.12-8. The Commission (Iivonen) did not dare to inform the public that several ships, e.g. the 'Anette' had heard the 'Mayday' on VHF channel 16 at 01.20 hrs and that these ships did not go to assist the 'Estonia' due to confusion ashore and on other ships - they did not know that the 'Estonia' had sank until the morning, 1.2 and 1.20. The 'Anette' did not hear any traffic of channel 16 after 01.30 hrs from any ship!
Unfortunately no open discussion about the cause of accident of the Commission was possible in October 1994. The shocked public had no access to correct and necessary information. This was probably part of the disinformation strategy of the Commission.