Estonian PM calls for new investigation into Baltic ferry disaster

Estonian PM calls for new investigation into Baltic ferry disaster
Part of the passenger boat is lifted out of the water after its sinking in 1994. Photo: AP Photo/Lehtikuva, Jaako Avikainen
A new inquiry could soon be launched into Europe's worst peacetime shipping disaster, the sinking of a ferry en route from Tallinn to Stockholm in 1994.

Estonia's prime minister on Tuesday called for a new investigation “as soon as possible” into the ferry sinking in the Baltic Sea that killed 852 people, following the release of a documentary.

“We wish to proceed with further investigation as soon as possible to find answers to all of the questions that have arisen in connection with the new information,” Prime Minister Juri Ratas said in a statement following a cabinet meeting.

The statement said it had been decided to submit a proposal to Finland and Sweden to carry out a joint investigation into the sinking of the MS Estonia.

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The priority “should be to investigate the position of the shipwreck and the seabed around it to identify the damage to the hull as well as the nature and timeframe of its occurrence and its possible connections to the sinking of the ship,” it said.

Makers of the five-part documentary series, which was released for streaming last month, claimed to have found a hitherto unrecorded four-metre (13-foot) hole in the ship's hull.

The passenger and car ferry sank in Finnish waters in the early hours of September 28th, 1994, while en route from Tallinn to Stockholm.

In 1997, investigators concluded the disaster was caused by the bow door of the ship being wrenched open in heavy seas, allowing water to gush into the car deck.

Survivors and relatives of those killed have fought for over two decades for a fuller investigation, with some claiming that the opening of the bow visor would not have caused the vessel to sink as quickly as it did.

Until now the countries involved, including Estonia, Sweden and Finland, have proven extremely reluctant to re-examine the causes of the disaster.

The area near the Finnish island of Utö was designated a sea grave, prohibiting further exploration of the wreckage.

Numerous theories about the cause of the sinking have circulated for years, none proven as of yet.

These include a collision with another vessel, either a military ship or a submarine, as well as theories that organised crime gangs were involved or that an explosion went off on the ship.


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