The Loading

The loading commenced at about 17.00 hours and was supervised by the 2nd mate Tormi Ainsalu assisted by some of the deckhands, such as Valdur Matt, Arne Koppel, Aulis Lee and others. Subsequently also the trainee mate Einar Kukk attended.

According to the surviving crew members having worked on the car deck, the hanging decks had not been in use and the car deck had been full with trucks and cars. Directly in front of the centre casing there had been 2 garbage containers standing one in back of the other towards the bow ramp.

The available cargo documentation consists of the cargo manifest which was received from the Joint Accident Investigation Commission in the early days of the investigation and was said to reflect the description and numbers of trucks/trailers actually loaded, see Enclosure 17.1.211. Only recently the freight manifest - Enclosure 17.1.212 - and the customs list - Enclosure 17.1.213 - were received.

Both the cargo manifest and the freight manifest initially contained 38 trucks - although in the consecutive numbering a 39th and 40th truck had been included, of which the 39th was added in handwriting on both manifests. The recently received customs list however reveals that there were actually 40 trucks and trailers loaded.

According to the customs list the 40th truck, missing on the cargo manifest although the consecutive number on the manifest - 43 744 - had been left open, was a Scania truck with the registration no. AG 565 and with the Latvian driver Gunnar Gobins ((). Since the customs list does not state dimen-sions, weight or type of cargo, no more details are known. The 39th truck added to the cargo manifest in handwriting under the consecutive no. 43 749 was also a Scania truck with the registration no. NRY 806 and with the Swedish driver Leo Sillanpää ((). In the freight manifest - Enclosure 17.1.212 - which is the cargo manifest with added freight figures, both trucks are missing although the consecutive numbers 43 744 and 43 749 were left open. It is unknown whether this means that these trucks were carried free of charge and whether this could mean that these are the two trucks escorted into the port and on board by military personnel. (See Subchapter 17.3.)

Note: According to information received from a prisoner in the jail of Vaasa/ Finland (after the Luttunen interview) his friend Leo Sillanpää was the driver of a truck which had plutonium hidden between the regular cargo.

It is also evident from the customs list that the truck or trailer no. 46 with the number plate 417 EEE had no driver registered. It is thus possible that this was the truck or trailer which had been shipped on board the ESTONIA on the basis of incorrect documents and which contained between 148 and 174 Iraqi Kurds according to information from the files of the public prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand, Stockholm.

According to the statement of an Estonian lawyer, someone from Estline, Stockholm flew to Tallinn by the first plane on the morning of the catastrophe, collected all the cargo and passenger documentation available and flew back by next plane to Stockholm, whereafter the cargo manifest was made up. According to other sources the Estonian Security Police collected already in the early morning hours of the 28th the complete cargo documentation from the Estline office in Tallinn.

The responsible customs chief of Frihamn Terminal, Stockholm told Spiegel TV that they had always received the cargo manifest on the evening of the departure by fax, which, however, had not been the case on the evening of 27 September 1994. Even after several reminders they received the cargo manifest only in the afternoon of 28 September 1994 from Estline, Stockholm.

On the other hand, there is another 'cargo manifest' available, which, according to the print-out at the top of the pages, had already been sent at 18.38 hours on 27 September 1994, i.e. more than 30 minutes before the departure of ESTONIA, from Estline, Tallinn to presumably Estline, Stockholm. In any event, on 29 November 1994 it was sent by N&T to Industrietechnik, which was the old firm of Börje Stenström, where he worked until his retirement in April 1995, and from whom a member of this 'Group of Experts' received it in March 1995.

Although the contents appear to be identical on both 'cargo manifests' which were made up by the same E. Kurvits, the handwriting at the end of page 4 is different. This 'cargo manifest' is attached as Enclosure 17.1.214.

Consequently there were doubts from the beginning as to whether the submitted 'cargo manifest' actually reflects all the trucks/trailers having been on board and these doubts have now been confirmed by the customs list hidden for so long, as explained on the previous page. In fact, this list was sent already on 14 October 1994 by fax from the Finnish Embassy, Tallinn, to the head office of the criminal police, Helsinki.

The combined weight of all trucks/trailers was 970 ts according to the cargo manifest - Enclosure 17.1.211 - and the JAIC states the total truck/trailer-weight to have been 1000 t, therefore it has to be assumed that the weight of the 40th truck was 30 t.

On the basis of these weights a stowage plan has been made up always bearing in mind that as much weight as possible had to be placed on the starboard side. The stowage plan is attached as Enclosure 17.1.215 and reveals that it was impossible to place enough weight on the starboard side to create the alleged departure condition. There must have been about 200 tons of weight more at the starboard side elsewhere in the ferry.

This is confirmed by the calculations of Shipconsulting Oy, Turku - see Enclosure 17.1.194 - according to which there must have been about 200 tons more weight at the starboard side. Such a weight distribution would have created a 10° starboard list without the full port - and the empty starboard heeling tanks, which allegedly reduced the list to 1° starboard.

According to survivors trucks and trailers had been more or less equally distributed between the port and the starboard sides of the car deck, thus, a wrong loading of the car deck cannot have been the reason for the excess weight at the starboard side. Consequently it has to be assumed that there has been water in tanks and/or void spaces at the starboard side which was unpumpable. The reason could be that these spaces were holed and thus connected to the outside and therefore could not be pumped empty at all, e.g. the starboard heeling tank.

An indication for such reason could be the image from the "Mudline video", shown below which was made during the diving investigation between 1 and 4 December 1994 - See Chapter 27. The image evidently shows a big hole in way of the starboard hull -/bottom plating area probably in way of the bilge strake. The enhancement of this part of the video tape by means of special equipment confirmed that the plating was indeed holed. - See Subchapter 34.6.



Those who know about this issue remain silent and so does the JAIC although they had the right and obligation to ask the relevant questions.

The responsible director of the technical managers and part-owners N&T, Sten-Christer Forsberg, replied when being interviewed by Erik Ridder-stolpe on 10.12.97 - Q: "The vessel was loaded totally wrong at Tallinn?" A: "The wrong loading is regrettable. It would, however, have happened to any other crew!"

This indicates that the "wrong loading" could have occurred independently of what the crew did or could have done, i.e. it has nothing to do with the loading of the car deck but was caused by circumstances beyond the control of the crew, e.g. the holed bottom plating.


Testimonies concerning Cargo Lashings

The evidence available in respect of the securing of trucks/trailers and other vehicles is naturally controversial. While the crew members testified to having secured all the trucks and trailers, though in different ways, this is confirmed by only very few of the truck drivers/personal car drivers. The majority of the drivers state that the trucks and trailers as well as the personal cars remained unsecured. The truth is probably somewhere in between, i.e. probably the trailers without own truck and the trucks loaded first were secured to the deck with belts, some additional trucks having wedges in front of and behind the wheels, and a certain number of trucks coming on board last as well as all vans and personal cars were not secured at all. This with certainty had also been the case with the truck and trailer of Per-Arne Persson according to his statement from which the following is quoted:

»Has made at least 15 trips on "Estonia". The actual voyage was made with a Volvo truck , type F12, reg. no. MOW 996, with trailer no. AN 069. Persson left his truck with trailer on the car deck as per drawing below which is attached to his statement.



Accordingly the vehicles were placed next to the forward port side of the centre casing with the aft end of the trailers being only about 20 m away from the bow ramp. Truck and trailer were loaded with plywood. The trucks were not secured by any means, they were just standing there without any fastenings. Persson did not note any other routine than on the previous voyages. As the vehicles were again placed so close together that any securing was impossible, he shouted to the crew: "You will never secure the trucks."«

The truck is entered into the 'cargo manifest' under running no. 43773, the weight of truck, trailer and plywood cargo was 55 ts, the distance to the bow ramp was only about 20 m and the truck was not secured because this was not possible due to the limited space between the trucks. The complete statement with drawing is attached as Enclosure 17.2.216.

In order to get a better picture, the respective parts of the statements from crew members and passengers having been on the car deck during and after the loading shall be quoted below:

Einar Kukk - trainee officer in his statement on 29.09.94 at Turku - Enclosure 17.2.217).

- »I commenced this additional training on the "Estonia" on 27.09.94 at 16.20 hours when the loading of the trucks began. I myself was on the car deck until 18.45 hours. I remember that at that time all large trucks had already been taken over and just the personal cars had to be loaded. The loading of those cars was carried out by the 2nd mate. I can only recall his first name, Tormi, his surname is unknown to me. As far as I know, he was in charge of the loading.
As to the question whether the vehicles loaded were secured to the vessel I can reply: Each large truck was secured to the vessel. The personal cars, in my opinion, were not secured, however wedges had been placed in front of the wheels. I know nothing about a possible later securing. The question whether I was on the car deck until the last truck had been loaded I am unable to answer with certainty, because I left the deck some time before the loading had been completed.
As to the question how and in what sequence the loading was carried out I can reply: Loading in the port of Tallinn was performed via the bow ramp by at first taking on board the heavy trucks, which were placed in the stern part of the vessel and secured. Into the forepart of the vessel the smaller trucks and personal cars were loaded. Into the middle part there were also large and smaller trucks.
As far as I remember the car deck was full with cars.«


A.B. Aulis Lee at Tallinn on 29.09.94 - Enclosure 17.2.218.

- »During loading of the cars I was on the car deck. There were a lot of trucks/trailers. The vehicles were placed by the 2nd mate. It was our job to make sure that the trucks got their right place. All cars were secured to rings. Only trailers and large trucks were secured by belts to the deck.«

Note: This does not make much sense and has possibly been translated incorrectly.


Car deck worker (Lagerarbeiter) Valdur Matt at Tallinn on 29.09.94 - Enclosure 17.2.219.

- »I saw for myself and I was myself busy with fastening the trailers to the car deck. Each trailer was secured by four belts. I do not know exactly how many trailers there were on board on the car deck. Before the ferry's departure I had secured the trucks on the right side of the car deck. Passenger cars were not secured by wedges. The passenger cars had gears in shift and the hand-brake tight. Towards the bow there were two personal cars. The distance between the trucks is short, or narrow, not more than ten centimetres.
The placing of the trailers is very exact. On the right side the trucks are in 3 lanes. Trailers are placed in a row, one after the other along the yellow line. The personal cars stood in the forward part. There was no free space on the car deck. The personal car deck (hanging deck) was in its normal, common position. I want to point out that this time the trailers were in a line at the outer deck. In the third line there were trucks. I can guarantee that the visor was closed. The locks were closed by an hydraulic lock.«

Also a number of passengers, some of them truck drivers, have made valuable statements as to loading and securing, which shall be quoted in the following:

Truck driver Stephan Duijndam at Turku on 30.09.94 - Enclosure 17.2.220.

- »When I am now asked why I was on the "Estonia" I reply that I was on a working trip carrying fish and peat by truck from Estonia to Holland and Belgium.
As already mentioned during the introductory hearing with the police, the truck was not secured at either side after we had driven on board in Tallinn. This is true and I remember that I therefore asked a crew member on the car deck, whose appearance I do not remember as I came rather late to the vessel and we were in a great hurry. I seem to remember that the man was wearing an orange boiler suit.
I remember that this man said repeatedly "nix problem" - "no problem" and did not give any other explanation. I remember that the vessel was almost full of cars and, at least, my truck and also the other trucks in the surroundings were not secured to the vessel.
I have been driving this route regularly every week between Holland - St. Petersburg - Holland - Estonia, and I remember that generally, when bad weather was expected, the trucks were secured to the vessel by chains. Now there were so many cars that it was apparently considered to be too difficult due to the tight positioning of the trucks to each other and time was also short when I came on board. Loading had apparently been carried out in a hurry.«

Cargo manifest no. 43763.

Truck driver Eckard Klug on 01.10.94 - Enclosure 17.2.221.

- »Klug had a truck with trailer. The car deck was locked during the voyage. It was quite narrow on the car deck during the voyage. The cars were stowed quite close together and the driver of each truck had to get out of his driver's cabin before the next truck was parked. Klug's truck was not secured. It had never been secured on any of the other voyages. Klug stated that he had been travelling on the ferry on this particular route ca. once a week for the last 11/2 years.«
1 truck Reg. no. DDG 182
1 trailer Reg. no. AZW 134
cargo: Textiles
Cargo manifest no. 43766

Passenger Tambet Herbert Lausma at Tallinn on 29.09.94 - Enclosure 17.2.222.

- »I was on board with the car M 2141 and 743 AEV. Before leaving the car deck I pulled the brakes tight and locked the doors. The car was not secured. The car was parked on the right side of the car deck looking from forward. I did not check the car during the casualty.«

Truck driver Jaak Mullo at Tallinn on 29.09.94 - Enclosure 17.2.223.

- »I had on board a truck of type Ford without trailer. I did not note whether my car was secured or not. The cars stood so close together that there was no space anyway for securing. My vehicle was parked in the aft part of the vessel, almost against the stern ramp. Before me was just a parcel truck. During the casualty it was impossible to check how it stood with the car.«
Cargo manifest no. 43750.

Part-Statement of Mikael Öun - Enclosure 17.2.224.

a.) taken by criminal police Helsinki 29.09.94:
»I drove in my truck, which was a so-called 10-tonner, 9 m long, to the left side of the car deck looking from forward. In Tallinn the cars are always driving on board from forward, my truck was placed as 2nd last car astern. Before me was a small delivery van. On the car deck there are 4 car lines and my car was placed in the 2nd line seen from the wall. Before I left the truck I pulled the hand-brake and locked the truck. Directly after departure I did some tax free shopping, whereafter I went back to the car deck and put my shopping into the truck. This must have been before 19.30 hours, because the doors to the car deck are locked half an hour after departure.«

b.) taken by criminal police Södertäljë on 04.10.94 - Enclosure 17.2.225.
Travelled together with Tamara Alep. They had brought donation goods to the Estonian Help Centre by the Scania truck, type P 93, reg. no. AEC 769, which was now empty.
He reported that immediately after departure he had been down to his truck to find out whether it would be at all possible to get into it. After he had been down to the truck he went back up and into a shop to buy some things, which he subsequently took down to the truck. This took about half an hour after the vessel had left Tallinn. Mikael reported that he had been completely alone on the car deck, there had been nobody except himself. He does not remember whether the cars were secured. He believes to recall that he saw some wedges behind some wheels. Cargo manifest no. 43757.

Truck driver Indrek Pungar at Tallinn on 28.09.94 - Enclosure 17.2.226.

- »On board I had my truck, type Volvo with registration no. 125 TAU, 10 m long. It was not secured to the deck nor to the ceiling of the deck. I myself shifted in the gear and pulled tight the manual brake. A voice shouted alarm when the vessel was sinking and the people were already out.« Cargo manifest no. 43767.

Passenger Hannu Seppänen on 05.10.94 - Enclosure 17.2.227.

- »He drove his car on to the car deck and went straight to his cabin. He had already made about 30 trips on the "Estonia". While Seppänen was sitting in the Night Club he felt heavy shaking of the vessel. This shaking really made the vessel vibrate and although Seppänen was not uneasy that the vessel might sink, he nevertheless began to think about whether the trucks were really well secured. When he had parked his car on the car deck he saw that 2 trailers were fastened by 2 ropes. According to Seppänen this looked like a rather weak lashing. A lashing which could hardly hold if the trailers started to move. He did not observe any other securing arrangement. He had not been down to the car deck during the passage because the doors were locked.«

Passenger Tony Spuhl on 06.10.94 - Enclosure 17.2.228.

- »In the port of Tallinn Tony Spuhl drove on board with his Volvo 740, silver metallic, reg. no. CWD 853. The vessel was berthed in such a way that one could only drive in by the bow. He drove in to the port side, parked on the port side and had a truck parked beside his car. When he looked forward in driving direction it looked as if the vessel was full of trucks. Tony Spuhl stood with his car in driving direction towards aft. He noted that the truck which stood to the left of his car was not secured to the deck.«

Truck driver Ainus Toobal at Tallinn on 29.09.94 - Enclosure 17.2.229.

- »I had a Volvo 1613 on board. I drove on board in the middle of the left side, closed the truck door and went up. I did not see whether or not the truck was secured. I can say nothing about the cause of the casualty but that at the vessel's forepart, where the cars are driving in, water had started to flood in.«

Truck driver Raivo Tönisson at Tallinn on 29.09.94 - Enclosure 17.2.230.

- »The only one I knew on board was a distant relative with first name Jaak (ca. 30 years and chauffeur). On board I had my truck, Volvo SH 12, reg. no. 533 EEB. Cargo was milk powder. I left the car deck a quarter of an hour after the ferry's departure. Up until then the truck had not been secured apart from the hand-brake, which I pulled tight myself. At 20.00 hours the car deck was locked and consequently I could no longer go down to the truck. On the day before the casualty, when I came with the vessel from Sweden, my truck was not secured Cargo manifest no. 43775.

Passenger Rein Vaaske at Tallinn on 29.09.94 - Enclosure 17.2.231.

- »They drove on board from forward at ca. 18.40 hours. The car was regis-tered under Ella Vaaske. It had the reg. no. ODT 471 and was a Toyota Helux Pick-up, 4-wheel drive, dark grey and a '89 model. It was Rein Vaaske who drove on board the ferry. Rein V. drove the car to the left side of the ferry, i.e. the starboard side. He said that the number of personal cars was not that large, instead there were a large number of trucks on the ferry. Rein V. said that he drove about 30 m inside, then it was full ahead of him. There appeared to be not so many trucks on the right side, i.e. port side of the ferry. R. Vaaske went down again to the car deck when the vessel had just begun to move away from Tallinn to pick up a cushion which he had left behind. At this time he noted that cars were also parked behind his car. He did not have a closer look whether the trucks were secured. He did not think about it. He did not see anybody securing cars when he drove on board.«

Passenger Holger Wachtmeister on 01.10.94 - Enclosure 17.2.232.

- »He had made 10 trips on "Estonia", always with his car. He had never seen that his car was secured nor had he ever seen that other cars or trucks were secured.«

In summary of the above quoted statements it has to be concluded that naturally the crew members having worked on the car deck do state that all trucks/trailers were secured, whilst Einar Kukk said, the personal cars had wedges in front of the wheels, Valdur Matt stated, passenger cars were not secured by wedges.
As to the passengers including truck drivers a total of 14 stated something about parking/securing their trucks/cars on the car deck, of which 10 testified that their trucks/cars were not secured and also that they had not seen any other secured or properly secured trucks/trailers/cars and 3 did not know or were unsure.
The conclusion of this 'Group of Experts' is that it has to be assumed that the trailers without own truck and the trucks loaded first were secured to the deck by belts, that some additional trucks had wedges in front of and behind the wheels, and that a certain number of trucks, which had come on board last, and all vans and personal cars were not secured at all. This refers also to the truck/trailer of Per-Arne Persson, 24 m long, 55 ts. weight and only 20 m behind the bow ramp, and to the heavy garbage containers stowed between the centre casing and the bow ramp and in the aft part.
There are rumours that Estline had informed the freight forwarders around noon of 27 September 1994 that bad weather had to be expected and that the cargo in/on the trucks had to be secured. It is, however, unknown whether any cargo in the trucks was secured at all. In any event, when the last car had rolled on board the car deck was practically full and the vessel reportedly had a 1° list to starboard.
This weighs particularly heavy since as of noon the south-west storm warning was known to those in command of ESTONIA, i.e. the storm would be hitting the ferry from port, which would increase the already existing starboard heel further. Under these circumstances it would have been not only a matter of good seamanship but a question of ship safety to plan the loading of the car deck in such a way that there was more weight at the port side to compensate for the heeling moment to be expected due to the wind pressure on the port side. See the statement of Captain Per Ringhagen - Enclosure 5.3.111.
This would have been of particular importance because the heeling tanks could not be used to adjust the heeling to be expected. The engineer on watch in the engine control room before and at the time of the casualty - Margus Treu - has consequently testified in his first statement on 29.09.94 at Turku, inter alia:

»The port heeling tank was full, but a starboard list of 1° remained. This was, in my opinion, one of the causes of the casualty, because later when the vessel was heeling to starboard there was no possibility to counteract.«


Other Information

According to information from Tallinn, about half an hour before the loading of the car deck was completed two big trucks were escorted on board by military personnel whereby the whole area around ESTONIA's berth was shut off by military forces. This was also the reason why passenger Carl Övberg almost missed the ferry, because his friend could not drive - as usual - to the terminal building to drop Carl off in time. He just made it and as soon as he was on board the gangway was pulled in - see the statement Carl Övberg - Enclosure Names and ranks of the soldiers having escorted the two trucks on board are known to this 'Group of Experts'.

Reportedly the two trucks were loaded with sensitive military equipment of unknown origin which were sent by the Estonian Army directly to the Swedish military for on-transport to another Western country. The transport was accompanied by militaries of unknown nationality who were not identified as such on the passenger list respectively who were probably not even entered on the passenger list.