Sweden to lift ban on surveying Estonia ferry wreck after 25 years

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Sweden to lift ban on surveying Estonia ferry wreck after 25 years
The bow visor of the ship, which was blamed for the disaster at the time. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Sweden said on Friday that it would seek to change the law to allow inspections of the wreck of the Estonia ferry, which sank in 1994, killing 852 people in one of the worst maritime disasters of the 20th century.


The Swedish Accident Investigation Authority has made a request to amend the a law banning dives in order to allow a re-examination the wreck after a documentary presented evidence of a previously unknown hole in the vessel.
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.


After a decision not to salvage the wreck or the bodies of the victims, the governments of Sweden, Estonia and Finland signed a treaty in 1995, where they agreed to designate the site of the wreck a final resting place and make it illegal for its citizens to disturb the site by diving down to it.
"We have no plans to rescind the law on protecting the peace of the grave, but we will look into how the law needs to be adapted to do the surveys the accident investigation authority wants to do," Home Affairs Minister Mikael Damberg told a press conference.
In September, a documentary showed underwater footage, obtained through a dive using a remote-controlled submersible, revealing a hitherto unrecorded four-metre (13-foot) hole in the ship's hull.
The revelations sparked calls for a reopening of the investigation.
A preliminary inquiry into whether the findings of the 1997 report needed to be re-evaluated was launched by the accident authorities in Sweden, Finland and Estonia.
Without saying directly that dives would be made they jointly requested that the laws needed to be amended to allow for the possibility.
Until now the countries involved, including Estonia, Sweden and Finland, have proven extremely reluctant to re-examine the causes of the disaster.
Damberg said Friday that the work to make the amendments to the law would start and that they would "continue the dialogue" with Estonia and Finland.


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