In comparing the two Reports the following conclusions seem appropriate:
1. The Report of the 'German Group of Experts'
Apparently this investigating body was overwhelmed by the magnitude of facts they have collected in the course of their investigation. Although all these facts pertain to the casualty, reading and memorizing them is a nearly impossible task. The reader is therefore sometimes thankful for repetition. The Report assures the reader however that no fact was "left out" whether important for the conclusions or not.
The conclusion drawn on the status of the vessel when she left Tallinn on her last voyage is convincing. A Passengerferry, which carries a false PSSC, is open to the Sea at her bow allowing the sea to gain access to the car deck uncontrolled and finally sets to sea with an unexplained list of 10 degrees - imperfectly corrected by counter ballasting of the port heeling tank - which was however due to a holes in the underwater hull, is unseaworthy to an extent which renders this verdict undebatable.
Whether the casualty scenario complies precisely with the last chaotic minutes of the vessel might be debatable. There are indications of further facts not yet known or still unconfirmed which - if found correct - might necessitate some change in the described scenario.
In methodology the Report complies with good practice. and is insofar based on the Court Report of Justice Sheen on the Capsizing of the HERALD OF FREE ENTERPRISE.
2. The Report of The Joint Accident Investigation Commission of Estonia, Finland and Sweden
The layout and presentation of the Report are impressive. Also here the amount of facts collected is stunning but - to compare - it should be noted that this Report deals with quite a few subjects, the German authors have not concerned themselves with.
The casualty scenario is not convincing. It is indisputable that the ramp is still fixed to the wreck. Had the ship indeed steamed against the sea with her ramp resting on the forepeak deck, the ramp would no doubt have been torn off by one of the first waves hitting it in that status.
The Report furthermore reveals an astonishing lack of basic knowledge of seafaring. A vessel of 14,5 years of age which has been subjected to substantial strain, as ferries are, does nowhere in its structure show the same criteria it had as a newbuilding. Fatigue and corrosion are every vessels worst enemies. And furthermore: No shipping expert puts much weight on the statements of crew members after a collision or other accident for which the faulty party is being sought.
There are however other problems with the JAIC Report which actually render it worthless:
The first such problem is the composition of the JAIC. Member of same was Mr Neidre. Mr Neidre was the head of the Navigation Department of ESCO still at the time of his participation in the investigation. The investigation of the activities of precisely this department in conjunction with ESTONIA was one of the tasks of JAIC. Neidre therefore did indeed investigate his own doings. And he kept doing so even after his dismissal, tolerated by the other members of the JAIC. One of the few principles that are generally accepted in democratic states is that no judge or civil servant is allowed to make a decision in the exercise of the public powers vested into him/her which concerns himself. Any violation of this principle renders such decision invalid and subject to removal by the judiciary.
The second problem are the methods chosen by the JAIC for the treatment of evidence. The destruction, manipulation and suppression of vital evidence by public servants in the execution of their duties constitutes a behaviour totally unacceptable in democratic societies and usually subjects the offender to criminal prosecution. The evidence presented by the German 'Group of Experts' for such treatment of evidence vital to the investigation into the causes for the ESTONIA catastrophe is - unfortunately - overwhelming.
The two flaws in the Report of the JAIC described above disclose a third, namely sloppiness. Whether the JAIC had instructions to perform an investigation with predefined outcome - as is indicated by remarks of Mr. Meister and Mr. Stenström - or whether they did not adhere to such instructions or - finally - whether they were never given to them is irrelevant because by application of due diligence owed by public servants to society the Report would have been flawless in any case. As matters stand now the Report of the JAIC can best be described by repetition of one phrase used by Justice Sheen in his Court Report: From top to bottom the Joint Accident Investigation Commission of Estonia, Finland and Sweden was infested with the disease of sloppiness. It is however appropriate to add here the words "and dishonesty", because the members of the JAIC knew or must have known that their sloppiness would result in harm to all those affected by the catastrophe who had put such great hopes on the due fulfilment of their duties by the members of the JAIC.
Despite the lack of excuse for sloppiness and dishonesty of the magnitude found here, two persons bear special responsibility for the failure of the investigation of the JAIC : Mr. Olof Forssberg and Mr. Kari Lethola. Both are trained legal minds and have been the appointed chairmen of the official accident investigation bodies in their respective countries. It seems inconceivable that they could permit the work of the JAIC to be stained with the flaws described. Whatever their duties were, they have both completely failed in their execution.