OPERATIONS ON BOARD
The Crew and the Advisers
All members of the actual crew were employed by the Estonian Shipping Company (ESCO). When senior officers were to be employed, Nordström & Thulin was consulted in compliance with the contract on technical management. In practical terms the crew matters were dealt with as explained in the testimony on the adequacy and qualifications of the crew of the ESTONIA submitted by the Estonian Shipping Company - the ship-management company - to the JAIC on the 15.12.94:
»The crew of the passenger ferry was staffed and prepared by the Staff Department of the Estonian Shipping Company. The recommendations for the crew, including mates and engineers, were given by the Technical Department and the Senior Captain Department. Previous service on ships was taken into account when choosing the crew.
The existence of all certificates, and those required by Estonian and International legislation, was checked.
All officers (captain and mates) and engineers have the respective certificates. They have gone through the respective preparation units. The preparation units have been tested by the Estonian National Maritime Board. Captain Arvo Andersson has taken a piloting exam in Sweden in order to sail in the Stockholm archipelago. The ship's officers knew one or two foreign languages besides their native language and English.
Alarm exercises were regularly carried out on board the ship in order to train the crew for actions to be taken in extreme situations. The action plans (alarm plans) were drawn up according to the International and Estonian regulations.«
In this connection attention has to be drawn to the Safety Manual of ESTONIA published as "Supplement No. 226" to the JAIC Report. Under item 6 "Fire Group 1" and under item 7 "Fire Group 2" are explained.
In 6.4 (referring to Fire Group 1) it is stated among other things: "The Group, that is led by the second engineer, shall ........" and in 7.4 (referring to Fire Group 2) it is stated among other things: "The Group, that is led by the second engineer, shall ........" How can one man lead two fire groups simultaneously?
Sten-Christer Forsberg - the responsible Director of the technical-management company, Nordström & Thulin, and boardmember of Estline AB wrote in his explanatory letter of 01.11.94 to the criminal police (the complete letter together with office translation is attached as Enclosure 5.2.110):
»Selection and Education of Crew
The selection and employment of officers and ratings was performed by ESCO, who had to supply vessel's crew according to the management contract with E-Line. ESCO was responsible for competence control and for vessel-specific education. The N&T organisation took an active part through Sten-Christer Forsberg and Ulf Hobro in selecting the masters, chief officers and chief engineers. In addition to requiring formal and practical competence and qualification, N&T also required that the top people should also be able to communicate in English, and in particular, that the respective masters and chief officers had experience with passenger ferries / Ro-Ro traffic.
M.V. ESTONIA was taken over from her previous owners at the shipyard in Turku, there the Estonian crew took possession of the vessel, the on board organisation was established and the necessary work to adjust the vessel to Estline's traffic was carried out. Finnish speaking personnel from the previous owners Wasa Line (chief officer, 1st engineer, electrician, and 2 repairmen) were hired from the start of the new traffic for between 21/2 and 5 months to assist their Estonian successors with practical advice in dealing with the vessel's specific systems. This principle was always followed by the Operations Organisation of N&T when taking over vessels, independently of flag or nationality of crew.
One of N&T's ferry-experienced masters, Anders Andersson, assisted N&T's organisation in preparation work for about 2 months before the vessel was taken over and stayed on board the vessel for the first 51/2 months. His main task was to give practical advice to the Estonian master in respect of navigation in the Stockholm archipelago and manoeuvring in port, but also in respect of cargo and stowage planning, and other traffic related questions.«
The responsible superintendent from Nordström & Thulin, Ulf Hobro, was interviewed by the criminal police Stockholm on 22.11.94 when he testified as quoted below:
»Mr. Hobro participated in the selection of master and chief engineer for the ESTONIA. He considered that the Master was qualified. He had many years of experience in passenger traffic between Tallinn and Helsinki. Also the chief engineer had worked on board vessels routed between Tallinn and Helsinki. The crew was, according to Mr. Hobro, as good as a Swedish crew.«
Naturally those responsible for the education, selection and training of the crew must have - at least externally - a good opinion of those whom they have selected, which, however, is by no means shared by all the insiders. Actually Captain Andresson had been master onboard GEORG OTTS for 8 months, chief officer for 10 months and 2nd officer for 10 months, i.e. in total 28 months. Bearing in mind that two crews relieved each other every 2 weeks, the time onboard is only 50%, i.e. 14 months and certainly not many years, as Hobro told the police.
The first crew
The work schedule for the crew of the ESTONIA was in general two weeks' service on board, followed by two weeks ashore. Consequently two full crews were employed alternately and all positions on board were held by two persons. In the deck department there were, besides the master, five deck officers, one radio officer and eight ratings. Organisationwise the ship's doctor was also a member of the deck crew. The engine department consisted of eight engineers and eight ratings. In the catering department there were eight positions with officer's status and 113 ratings.
The first crew (see crew list - Enclosure 220.127.116.11) was to a large extent identical to the last one.
Of those crew members
Captain Arvo Andresson
2nd officer Peeter Kannussaar
2nd officer Tormi Ainsalu
4th officer Andres Tammes (later 3rd officer)
AB Kaimar Kikas (later 4th officer)
boatswain Vello Ruben
2nd engineer Arvo Tulvik (later 1st engineer)
did not survive,
whilst 2nd engineer Peeter Tüür
4th engineer Margus Treu (later 3rd engineer)
reefer engineer Andres Verro
motorman Ivan Ziljajev
electrician Arvi Rohumaa
motorman Elmar Siegel
have survived and are important witnesses.
The first - and last - master and his adviser
The first master of the ESTONIA was selected by ESCO, and apparently also by N&T, to be Arvo Andresson, the second captain for the first two months was the elderly Captain Rain Erlach, of whom nothing is known. He was replaced by Avo Piht who relieved Arvo Andresson in two-week intervals until the last voyage, when he was on board, but not in command, and who has been considered "missing" ever since. The first - and at the beginning only - "nautical adviser" was Anders Andersson, a well qualified and experienced Swedish ferry master. The reason for his employment was:
After several months increasing tension developed between Andersson and the Estonian officers, in particular, Arvo Andresson, who became known for knowing everything better. Andersson was consequently replaced by Juri Aavik (did not survive) and Karl Karell (now nautical superintendent of N&T).
The situation and the atmosphere on board during the first months in service can probably best be demonstrated by an extract from the book "Katastrofen Kurs" by Anders Jörle and Anders Hellberg. Anders Hellberg, who spoke in length with Anders Andersson, reports as a result of this discussion in Chapter 11 of the book:
»Arrogant, nonchalant and not very competent
Arvo Andresson, Master of "Estonia", was in many respects an extraordinary master. He took care that discipline and order on board were properly upheld. However, he had a little problem: He mixed up port and starboard. He, as well as his relief Avo Piht, were described as little Gods on board. Under the old Russian system, of which practically the entire crew was a product, the master's word or orders were never questioned. In particular during his absence this could become quite serious. On board a vessel certain things have to be carried out immediately in order not to endanger the safety. But if the master was not present and could not be asked, the result could be that nothing at all was done. It was better to do nothing instead of doing something which could cause the master to see red. Such a system certainly has its advantages, if the master is fully competent. But was Captain Arvo Andresson fully competent? This is questioned by someone who has worked with Andresson.
When the Estonian Shipping Company ESCO took over "Estonia" the Swedish part owner of Estline, N&T, employed a number of advisers, actually assistant masters and crew members working in other functions, who were to train and control the Estonian crew members to make sure that they really knew what they were doing.
Initially N&T wanted to have a Swedish master, chief officer and chief engineer for the vessel, although sailing under Estonian flag, however, ESCO refused to accept that. Instead, the Swedish "advisers" were employed.
One of the Swedish assistant masters, Anders Andersson, worked for quite some time with Arvo Andresson. He has described the Estonian master to the Joint Accident Investigation Commission as having been arrogant and nonchalant, and having strictly upheld discipline and the hierarchy on board. He pursued this so rigorously that he even changed the crew in the hotel and restaurant sections, even if the results were catastrophic. The Swedish and Finnish advisers were professionals from Viking, Silja, and Estline's previous vessel "Nord Estonia" in respective positions on board, such as hotel, restaurants, tax free and business shops. This worked very well and effectively until Arvo Andresson changed everything and put incompetent Estonian personnel into management positions, no matter what effect that had on the business results.
All this was reported to Sten-Christer Forsberg, Technical Manager of N&T, who spoke to Arvo Andresson requesting him not to interfere with matters which he did not understand. To discuss these things with ESCO "was totally useless as they under all circumstances strengthened the position of Arvo Andresson. He had an untouchable position within ESCO".
When "Estonia" was taken over and Andersson and Andresson met for the first time, Andersson asked Arvo Andresson how he managed the change from "Georg Otts" to "Estonia" and Arvo Andresson just replied "vessel is vessel". This explains a lot about Arvo Andresson because 9 months on the "Georg Otts", a small ferry without much windage sailing between Helsinki and Tallinn, can naturally in no way be a proper preparation for taking over the command of a ferry like "Estonia" with a substantially larger windage and other relevant differences. As a confirmation, the vessel grounded near Sandhamn soon after the service had been opened, because Arvo Andresson had totally underestimated the drifting speed.
All vessels which regularly call at Stockholm have a wind restriction for the passing of Farfarsgrundet (Sandhamn). The large Silja and Viking ferries do not enter here if the wind speed is in excess of 15 m/sec. from S/SW, then they use the northern entrance (Söderarm). For the considerably smaller "Estonia" the senior pilot of Stockholm had set the limit to 10 m/sec.
The experience of Arvo Andresson in ferry traffic was restricted to the Helsinki-Tallinn service. There are 3 smaller ferries: "Georg Otts", "Vaana Tallinn" and "Tallink" which go daily both ways. Reportedly these relatively small vessels always used tugs.
"Estonia" had the highest ice class and 24000 hp, whilst "Georg Otts" was so low powered that they always had to run the engines at full speed against heavy seas or ice in order to make some headway at all. To proceed with "Estonia" against heavy head seas, however, required a lot of experience as otherwise quite some damage could be done to the foreship with such powerful engines. This experience Arvo Andresson did not have. This became obvious rather quickly after the take-over at Turku, when "Estonia" departed and he misjudged the wind completely and used the propellers the wrong way so that the vessel almost hit the quay. Subsequently he admitted to Andersson that he had difficulties with manoeuvring the engines and also mixed up port and starboard.
Similar incidents happened frequently during the following months.
According to the Swedish captain the Estonians also never did learn how to properly load the "Estonia". It is important to load a Ro-Ro vessel correctly, both in order to obtain the correct trim in the ballast tanks considering the wind and in order to prevent the vessel from heeling.
The mates were sitting all afternoon with their cargo plan, only to discover that it did not function when the cars were rolling on board. There were always significant changes in the bookings at the last minute. Then emergency solutions had to be found in order to take all cars on board. Simultaneously, there was an aversion within ESCO against the Swedish interfering on board.
As master, Arvo Andresson was dominant and authoritarian. The mates never dared even to come close to the sticks (Note: pitch controls), not even the chief officer who normally has to be able to manoeuvre the vessel. Andresson was a product of the Soviet system. Once when he damaged the quay at Frihamn in Stockholm with the aft of the vessel, he did not accept to write a report to the ship owners. "I will be able to persuade my mates to testify that the damages to the quay were already existing when we arrived", he said.
The Swedish captain describes the difference between an Estonian and a Swedish or Finnish vessel as follows: "On a Swedish ferry the mate first reduces the speed and does thereafter inform the master about what he has done. As regards "Estonia", it was the other way round."
Generally, there was a poor ability to take initiatives within the crew, probably as a result of the old system. Nobody dared to take his own initiative.«
The files of the public prosecutor in Stockholm, Tomas Lindstrand, who performed his own investigation, contain the following, additional information in relation to Captain Anders Andersson and his wife Marlene:
(a) A passenger sustained a heart attack at sea and Andresson was totally helpless, did not know what to do and asked Marlene Andersson what he should do.
(b) When 60 Iraqis were discovered in a container on the car deck he did not know what to do either or how to behave, phoned his principals in Tallinn and asked what he should do.
So much for Arvo Andresson seen with the eyes of Anders Andersson and his wife. Some of this is confirmed by the Finnish advisers who have told this 'Group of Experts' that it always took unusually long for Andresson to get the vessel alongside and that the berthing manoeuvres were quite often accompanied by impacts. They also recounted that during the first real heavy weather voyage from Tallinn to Stockholm Anders Andersson decided to enter the archipelago at Utö and proceed inside up to Söderarm for the safety and comfort of passengers and crew and, last but not least, the vessel. Reportedly this also led to a major clash with Andresson and ESCO although no time was lost, and, because there was absolutely no support from N&T, was never repeated by Andersson. The Finnish advisers have also stated that at the beginning when the vessel was proceeding too fast against head seas passengers complained to the Information desk, whereafter the girls phoned the bridge and passed on the complaints, but were harshly brushed off and never dared to do it again. (For more details about Captain Arvo Andresson see also Chapter 13.)