Numerous activities by the Governments of the three countries involved, their various administrations and other organisations took place during the early days and following weeks with regard to the sinking of the ESTONIA and which were of relevance to the investigations of the JAIC. Some shall be explained below.


Åke Sjöblom and Gunnar Zahlée

On the day after the casualty, 29 September 1994, Chief Inspector Åke Sjöblom and Inspector Gunnar Zahlée returned from Tallinn to Sweden with their knowledge of the extremely bad condition of visor and bow ramp, the incompetence of the crew and finally the impossibility to stop the ferry from departing despite all their endeavours. See Chapter 15.
      Already on the following day a confidential meeting behind closed doors took place which was chaired by the then head of Sjöfartsinspektionen, Bengt-Erik Stenmark, with the heads of the Stockholm and Gothenburg offices of Sjöfartsinspektionen and their assistants attending. Åke Sjöblom informed those assembled about his real findings and his desperate but futile attempts to stop the ferry from departing. The very far reaching consequences were discussed, but then it was decided to inform the public that only minor deficiencies had been found, moreover that the inspection had only been on-the-job training and not a real PSC. See Chapter 15. This official version is upheld by Sjöfartsverket up to day and Åke Sjöblom and Gunnar Zahlée have confirmed it when being questioned by police and the public prosecutor.
       It is unknown whether the members of the Swedish part of the JAIC were informed during a meeting in the Sjöfartsverket head office in Norrköping on 13 October 1994. It has to be assumed that Olof Forssberg and Börje Stenström were informed, because otherwise it would not be understandable that Börje Stenström in his capacity as chief maritime technical investigator did not take part in the questioning of Åke Sjöblom and Gunnar Zahlée at the office of the Swedish JAIC in November 1994, which was, at least officially, the only time that these two - being really key witnesses as to the ferry's condition before her last departure - have been interrogated by JAIC members.
       Åke Sjöblom at the beginning wrote a draft version of his report con-cerning the "On-the-job training on the Estonia" - see Enclosure 15.198 - and did send this draft by letter of 24 October 1994 - see Enclosure 15.199 - to Willand Ringborg being in charge of the Sjöfartsverket project of the training of Estonian safety inspectors. Recently another copy of this letter with two hand-written notes to Börje Stenström on it was made available - see Enclosure 36.1.443.
The note at the top reads - office translated - as follows:

     "Hi Börje, Attached is what I think should be roughly enough to have stopped her from sailing on 27.09.94.       (Handwriting of Åke Sjöblom.)
The 2nd note at the bottom in another handwriting reads:
      If she would have been stopped on the 27th to correct all the 17, they would probably quite quickly have      found the rest of the damages (failures) and in that case the ship would have been detained for a few weeks in      Estonia. Best regards, L.Å."

Attached was a copy of the filled-in PSC form of the Swedish National Maritime Administration (Sjöfartsverket) concerning the inspection of the ESTONIA on the 27.09.94 by Åke Sjöblom/Gunnar Zahlée and their Estonian trainees. On this copy, which is signed by the "Head of National Ship Inspec. Division" Aarne Valgma, also the 3rd column referring to "references to conventions" is filled in, which is only required in case the vessel was detained which had, at least, been the intention as confirmed by the above quoted notes. Although this copy - attached as Enclosure 15.200 - is recorded in the register of the Swedish part of the JAIC under A46b, it has not been attached to the Final Report of the JAIC as supplement, nor is anything of the above mentioned in this report. Instead the Estonian version of this "filled-in PSC form" is attached as Supplement 223 together with an explanation by the E.N.M.B. dated 31.05.96 which was translated by Uno Laur into English and reads as follows:

"It is hereby reported that a Port State (PSC) training inspection was carried out by the inspectors of the Estonian National Maritime Board's Ship Inspection Department (with assistance of the Swedish Maritime Administration inspectors) on m.v. 'Estonia' on 27.09.94. The purpose of this inspection was to obtain experience for the Estonian inspectors in respect of large passenger ships and also to carry out a Port State Control (PSC) of this vessel. As a result of this inspection all shortcomings noted by the inspectors and instructors were fixed in the "Report of Inspection in Accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control". This Report was signed by the Head of National Ship Inspection Department A.Valgma. Later on this Report was used as a teaching aid on training of inspectors. The aim of this inspection was not to find out the knowledge and training of the officers or crew members because it is the task of other authorities. In course of discussings with the ship's officers the theoretical problems of stability were not touched since the inspectors were interested in technical condition and organizational level of the vessel.
Ship Control Inspectors / signature / Valgma
31.05.96 / signature / Buddell"

The complete Supplement 223 is attached as Enclosure 36.1.444.
      This Estonian version does not contain the entries in column 3 and the explanation for this column at the bottom is illegible. Also the references to the Swedish Maritime Administration (Sjöfartsverket) have been deleted respectively were made illegible. The copy is also signed by Aarne Valgma, however as "Head of National Ship Inspect. Department". For more details see Chapter 15.
      The described manipulation of the documentation was a vain attempt to disguise the personal tragedy of the two Swedes who had on this occasion completely failed in their professional mission.
      The members of the E.N.M.B. in the trainee team - in particular Aarne Valgma - had the authority to detain the vessel until repairs had been effected (see Chapter 15), whether this inspection qualified as a Port State Control inspection or not (see Chapters 9.3., 15).
      The two Swedes had no such authority and those who had in Sweden and were contacted by Sjöblom (see Chapter 15) did not live up to their professional duties. The reason may be the notorious lack of fantasy in bureaucrats. All they would have to do is to communicate to the Estonian authorities that the vessel would not be permitted to enter Swedish waters or ports in this condition. In the JAIC Report, Chapter 5.2, only the following is mentioned:

"During the last day in Tallinn the vessel was used in a training programme for Estonian Maritime Administration surveyors in the conducting of a Port State Control in compliance with the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (see about Paris MOU in 9.1). The trainees made a thorough Port State Control inspection of the ESTONIA and were supervised and instructed by two senior inspectors from the Swedish Maritime Administration. The exercise was documented in protocol, set up in a form according to the Paris MOU. A copy of this protocol is included in the Supplement. The Swedish inspectors leading the exercise have been interrogated by the Commission and have stated that the vessel was in good condition and very well maintained. They found no deficiencies that would have caused detention or other serious remark, if the inspection had been a regular Port State Control. However, some deficiencies were noted, such as that the rubber seals for the bow visor were worn, had tear marks in some places, and were in need of replacement, and watertight hatch covers on the car deck were open and in a condition indicating that at least one was not normally closed. It was also stated during the interrogation that the Swedish inspectors had experienced "lack of respect for issues related to load line matters" in their contact with officers met during the exercise."

See further in Chapter 41.


Early Indications of Something Unusual

Before turning to the direct activities of the JAIC, however, attention has to be drawn to certain developments in Tallinn and Stockholm throwing some light on the situation existing before the last departure of the ESTONIA, and the consequences thereof:

Shortly afterwards Andi Meister ended the hearing of the witnesses abruptly and left with them for Tallinn. (See Subchapter 37.1.)

In this connection it has to be noted that the explosive experts of the Finnish criminal police apparently did not know that it was no more possible to prove by means of the above-mentioned methods whether an object had been affected by explosions which had been below water for 7 weeks. According to the explosives expert Martin Volk this is only possible by a metallurgical examination of the molecular structure of the affected metal. Such an examination, however, was not carried out according to available information.
      In spite of the existing rumours about "possible" or even "actual" explosions in the foreship area which might also have caused a hole in the starboard hull - see the following Subchapter 36.3 - with respective influence on the casualty scenario, the official investigation was never directed in this direction. It has to be noted, however, that recent photos, taken of the visor since being in Södertälje, showed that a substantial part of the visor bulkhead plating around the initial location of the lugs for the side locks has been cut off at both sides. Initially it had only been small rectangular parts directly around the locations of the lugs.


The "Hole in the Starboard Side"

On 2/3 and 9/10 October 1994 ROV inspections of the wreck were carried out in the presence of Tuomo Karppinen of the Finnish JAIC. The hole in the forward part of the starboard hull seems to have been discovered which assumption is confirmed by the many cuts of the video footage of this area. The existence of this hole seems to have been known also to Sten Andersson, thus at a certain level within Sjöfartsverket, as well as to the JAIC members. This fact was consequently leaked out to the press, as is first shown in the article on 18 October 1994 in DAGENS NYHETER by Anders Hellberg, where he states:

"Bow Visor Tore Up Holes
Accident Commission convinced what caused the Estonia casualty. Estonia's bow visor tore up big holes in the hull, as it was torn off. Together with the partly opened bow ramp, those holes in the hull caused water to flow on to the car deck in such quantities, that the stability of the ship completely changed.
When the 50 to 60 ton heavy visor started to move the actuator tore traces (tracks) in the plating and holes were made in the hull, says Sten Andersson, observer of Sjöfartsverket in the JAIC who was not present at the Monday session in Tallinn.
Also from other very well informed sources DN has received the same information, that holes in the hull contributed to water getting into the ship so quickly. According to Sten Andersson, the three visor locks, two on the sides and one at the bottom, were ripped off. This can be seen from the new underwater pictures taken.
The DN's source, with substantial knowledge of the ship's construc-tion, has difficulties believing that the sturdy lock at the bottom - the Atlantic lock - could have been ripped off by a force directed upwards. The source said: "I rather believe that the visor attachments on the deck have broken and that the 54.5 ton visor fell forward and broke the Atlantic lock. The bow visor then started to move forward/ aft tearing on the upper part of the ramp on which cars and trailers normally drive. The bow ramp hung on the visor and was finally dragged out a meter or two in its upper part. Here water came into car deck."
Note: This should be the other way round: The visor actually hung on the bow ramp, but it may be a misunderstanding.
But many experts have had difficulties to believe that this compara-tively small opening of the ramp would have let in such huge amounts of water, that later sank the ship. More than 1000 tonnes have entered.
The two pieces of information explain how additional water came into the ship. When the visor finally broke loose the hydraulic actuators, that normally regulate the opening, tore big holes into the hull. The beam on which the actuator was fastened has, in its turn, ripped off part of the hull plating. There are pictures of those damages, that we just got from the new videos taken by the underwater cameras, Sten Andersson says.
Note: Such pictures are not visible on the video footage publicly available.
According to the source of DN this scenario gives "violent mechanical damages and big holes in the hull". Those holes will then be situated under the water line in the heavy sea.
Survivors have testified about several different bangs, that might explain how the bow visor first came loose in its lockings from the actuator attachments.
Those who stayed in the cabins under car deck in the foremost part of the ship have told about a scraping from the outside of the bottom, that is the outside of the ship. That sound might have been caused by the finally ripped-off visor drifting along the ship's side. The new conclusions of the JAIC changes the earlier picture, where the visor was ripped off and the bow port was instead pushed in by the violent sea.
The question then is of course whether the crew had any possibility to save the ship and alert the passengers. Probably the entire course of events - with the bow visor coming loose, the pushed-out bow ramp, and the ripped-up side of the hull - took place very quickly. The officers on the bridge didn't have many minutes until so much water had entered, that the ship was not possible to save.
Why, then, has not the bow visor been found in the proximity of the wreck? The Finnish Coast Guard has been looking along the route close to Estonia, but hasn't found anything. The Commission is convinced that the visor doesn't lie in the area close to the wreck, where one has been looking. A possibility is, that it all happened so fast that the visor simply lies under the wreck and therefore will not be found until the wreck - possibly - will be salvaged."

Note: Hellberg obviously means damage to the ship's hull not caused by the actuators when cutting through the front bulkheads and Sten Andersson's reply indicates that he refers to damage by which massive water ingress on to the car deck is possible. Hellberg has just a vague idea but confronts Andersson with information about big damage to the hull's side. If Andersson had not been aware about such damage he would have corrected Hellberg imme-diately. But Andersson did not reject it and let it pass. Thus it was published and stands up to day uncorrected. Hellberg furthermore writes in his article that "the scraping noises heard by survivors from the 1st deck might have been caused by the visor drifting along the vessel's hull side" which became indeed part of the JAIC scenario. This cannot have been possible because according to the "Floatability Calculations of the Visor" by the Technical University, Hamburg-Harburg, the visor sank as soon as it became detached from the vessel - see Subchapter 34.11 - which was only when the vessel was heeling from 90° to upside down, i.e. approximately when the heel was 130°/140° - see Chapter 31 - the Casualty Scenario.

Although such a hole could have explained the sinking and, in particular, the way the ferry sank, it was completely ignored by the JAIC in their press conference and in all internal and external publications. However, not all of the relatives forgot about the Hellberg article in DN and especially those who had made own observations which could lead towards a hole in the side of the ferry remained very interested and followed this up whenever possible. This occurred for example at a big meeting at Karlberg Castle on 13 March 1996 when Johan Fransson from Sjöfartsverket was asked whether there was a hole in the starboard side. His answer was: "Yes there is a hole in the starboard side, but I don't know anything about it - please the next question!" This was said in the presence of many relatives, journalists and survivors, among them Rolf Sörman, who reported on the meeting at the Styrelse for Psychological Försvar (Board of Psychological Defence) on 9 June 1999 when the survivors Mikael Öun, Sarah Hedrenius, Sten Jolind and himself met with Johan Fransson, Per Nordström from Sjöfartsverket and some people from the SPF. Rolf Sörman asked Johan Fransson again whether there was a hole in the starboard side and his answer was "yes": However the "hole" had disappeared to the public and was completely covered by the casualty scenario developed by Börje Stenström and his colleagues which was presented to the public.


Other Information from Tallinn

The Estonian JAIC members, the Criminal Police and the Security Police obviously interviewed the crew survivors, the crew of the 2nd shift, the ESCO and the Estline employees as well as other persons with information regarding the ESTONIA, which was their duty. Therefore there was also detailed knowledge at an early stage already about the very bad condition of the ESTONIA. Such information, however, was apparently not passed on to the Finnish and Swedish JAIC members straight away which is demonstrated by the examples explained below:


The Hearing of the Survivors

The Finnish police took statements of all the survivors brought to Finland - sometimes two or three statements - during which one of the standard questions to the survivors was: Did you note or feel explosions?" The Swedish survivors were interviewed by local policemen in their home cities or villages, who in most cases were not trained to ask the proper questions for a maritime investigation. This resulted in the disappearance of valuable evidence forever, a procedure which as such was accepted by the Swedish part of the JAIC as well as by the investigating public prosecutor. There is evidence that SÄPO (Security Police) officials tried to persuade survivors to change their statements in regard to particular matters. Some followed, very few did not. All the statements were in the early stage declared "classified" by prosecutor Birgitta Cronier, however, were declassified sometime in 1995. The statements were sent to Estonia on 17 October 1994 and were received by the Swedish part of the JAIC on 20 October 1994.
      In Estonia the crew survivors were frequently heard by the Criminal Police, the Security Police and subsequently by a transport investigation office in addition to being heard several times by Estonian members of the JAIC. According to the statements available the Estonian passenger survivors however were heard only once.
      The Estonian statements were sent to the Swedish and Finnish police and translated subsequently into the respective languages. The Swedish versions were received by the JAIC on 1 December 1994 and are available together with some of the Estonian originals to this 'Group of Experts'. A comparison of the Estonian originals with the translations revealed that the Swedish text is substantially shorter and relevant parts of the originals were not translated at all. It is, of course, unknown to this 'Group of Experts' whether this occurred just due to sloppiness of the translator or was done deliberately. The statement of Ain-Alar Juhanson taken by the Central Criminal Police of Tallinn, at Tallinn airport on 29 September 1994 at 17.10 hours shall serve as one of many examples:
The translation from the Estonian original reads as follows:

"Before the catastrophe I was on Deck 2 in cabin 1056 of the ferry 'Estonia'. The vessel left her berth in Tallinn, at 19.00 hours. Our group consisted of 4 sportsmen. Myself, Anti Arak, Kristjan Rainend, Jaak Pehk are athletes. Ülle Karo was responsible for our massage. We were underway with a Mercedes bus without driver. Our bus was one of the last taken on to the car deck. I do not know how the bus was secured. The driver was K. Rainend who had driven the bus on to the car deck. We had a double cabin but we were 4. The cabin no. was 1056. Ülle Karo had bought a 1-person ticket for this cabin. We four others had deck tickets. The cabin was in the middle of the ship. I cannot define exactly, I was unable to orientate myself on the vessel. At the moment of the catastrophe we were in cabin 1056. Myself, Arak, Rainend and Ü. Karo. I do not know in which cabin Pehk was. We all slept.
      There was a high sea state prevailing. The waves were beating against the vessel, there was strong wind. I woke up by a heavy metal bang. I felt that the vessel heeled immediately to the right side. I was sleeping on the floor. Prior to this metallic bang I did not hear anything in particular due to the noises of the engines. As a result of the bang we all woke up. It was clear to us that something particularly extraordinary had occurred. I took my Texas trousers, my shirt and left the cabin. All the passengers were already in the alleyway. It appeared that some water was already in the alleyway. All four of us then went up the stairs to the deck - I was the first one. The vessel continued to heel to the right. On the stairs there were only few people, but up at the doors it was quite full. There was full panic. Everybody was screaming: "What shall we do?" At this time everywhere the light was on and in my opinion also the engines were still running. Only very few managed to reach the railing. Not everybody managed to get out of the foyer. Myself, Arak and Rainend managed to reach the railing. After we had reached the railing I heard a female voice shouting over the loudspeakers 2 or 3 times the word "Alarm" in Estonian language. At this time there was still light. Arak and myself stayed for a while at the railing. There was a strong storm. Suddenly the vessel heeled heavily to the right, the heel reached almost 90°. Then we heard the siren and the light went out. We climbed on to the side of the vessel and tried, depending on the heel of the vessel, to have a firm hold beneath our feet. Together with us many people had climbed on to the side of the vessel. Rainend did put on a lifevest whilst holding on to the railing. There were many lifevests. Together with Arak we tried to fabricate a raft from lifevests. We succeeded but did not manage to lift the raft on to the vessel's side. There were a number of rubber boats floating around in the waves. I cannot say when the ship's engines stopped. Together with Arak we estimated that in case we would jump into the water to reach one of the lifeboats we would be smashed against the vessel by the waves coming in from this side. There was a heavy storm. We then moved towards the bow. We could see that the bow was damaged. At the bow I climbed along some sort of grids downwards together with Arak. To the water's surface remained some 10 m and hand-in-hand we jumped. We swam about 100 m away from the vessel to avoid being sucked down by the vessel. Due to the high waves we were unable to save ourselves on the rafts. We had both put on lifevests when we were standing at the railing and now were swimming together until we saw a white cabinet. The doors of the cabinet were closed. We climbed on top of it. I do not know how long we were on the cabinet. We were able to hold ourselves to the handles of the cabinet. In the moonlight we saw the vessel. The distance was approximately 150 m. Finally we managed to reach a rubber boat. After about 3-4 hours we were picked up by a helicopter. Together with Arak I was rescued. I cannot say what happened to the others.
      I had not been on the car deck to check our bus during the catastrophe."

The Estonian original and the German translation are attached as Enclosures 36.5.446 / 36.5.446.1.
Now the Swedish translation:

"We were with a Mercedes Benz bus. Our bus was one of the last placed onto the car deck. I do not know how the bus was secured to the car deck. The bus driver was Kristjan Rainend. Ülle Karo had bought the ticket for cabin 1056. The other 4 had deck passenger tickets. The cabin was in the middle of the vessel, where exactly I cannot say because I could not orientate myself. All 4 of us slept. Out at sea there were high waves which were beating against the vessel, there was strong wind. Woke up from a heavy metallic bang. Before that nothing worth mentioning was heard in the engines ........ After the mentioned metallic bang the vessel began to heel to the right. The light was everywhere functioning when we jumped out into the alleyway. I had the impression that the engines were still running. Ülle could not come out of a door. Myself, Arak and Rainend reached the railing. There was heavy storm, the vessel heeled ca. 90°. Suddenly there was a loud siren, thereafter the light went out. There were many people up there. At the railing there were also many lifevests. In the sea there were many liferafts but we did not dare to jump from the side because the waves would smash us back against the vessel. I do not know when the engines stopped. We went to the vessel's bow which was damaged.
      Hand-in-hand we did jump into the water which was about 10 m below. We swam about 100 m away from the vessel and were holding on to a cabinet which we met. There we were about 150 m away from the vessel. The moon was shining and therefore we could see the vessel. Finally we reached a rubber boat. Together with Arak I managed to get in. I do not know what happened to the others. I was not on the car deck to check our bus during the catastrophe."

The Swedish translation is attached as Enclosure 36.5.446.2.
     It is quite obvious that the Swedish text by far does not contain the information stated in the original, thus the psychological expert to the Swedish JAIC Bengt Schager, who was to summarize all statements for the other JAIC members and experts, was not in a position to evaluate the full evidence of this important witness. He could therefore not question him further about his observations at the damaged bow.
      It is evident that very important evidence remained unknown to the JAIC.
In any event, the JAIC relied on the statements of the survivors mainly taken by policemen untrained for maritime casualties and refrained from the taking of own statements.
      As a matter of fact, the JAIC only heard a couple of the crew members whom they considered to be the key witnesses, which they actually were and still are, however, they did not tell the truth or, at least, not the full truth. They were - as it could be expected - very loyal to their owners ESCO and N&T. The many passenger survivors having made numerous valuable observations were not heard by the JAIC, except for one or two. Instead the psychological expert to the Swedish part of the JAIC, Bengt Schager, was instructed to make summaries from available statements which were then handed to the other members and experts and on the basis of which they formed their opinion about the developments onboard and about the casualty sequence of events. These summaries were complied in such a way that for example water observed on deck 1 was not even mentioned in the first version.
      When Kari Lethola was interviewed by Jutta Rabe of SPIEGEL TV in May 1996 and was also confronted with certain survivor statements, e.g. Carl Övberg, he stated that they (the Finnish part of the JAIC) did not have the complete statements, but just "Summaries" made by Bengt Schager. In the course of the further interview it turned out that the JAIC had not taken the statements of any passengers themselves. Nevertheless it turned out that Lethola knew the Övberg statement about the hydraulic noises heard, which, according to Lethola, were caused by the visor actuators when the visor was opening/closing after the locks were broken.
      According to Stenström the noises were caused by the stabilisers. Lethola subsequently confirmed that the JAIC did everything to prove in the best possible manner that the hypothetical scenario developed by Stenström less than 4 weeks after the casualty is the real one and that consequently the locking devices of the visor, allegedly under-dimensioned, were the main cause of the casualty. In a subsequent interview after his resignation from the JAIC Bengt Schager told Jutta Rabe among other things:

"Q: I was told that you were first asked to make summaries of the statements and then later again, more or less, to count statements which were talking about a detailed time line, so that one could know when there was water under the car deck, etc.?
A: Oh yes, when I made my first version we suddenly came across that new things were important, on which I had not put any emphasis before, for example, we have the reports about water on deck 1 and I knew there were reports about water on deck 1 and I was again re-reading this in a more thorough way and put it into my summary as it was said, because it could prove to be important after the shipbuilders report. I did not know, when I started my first version that this could be very important, that the actual wording had to be put there.
Q: Did it affect in some way?
A: No, it was more ... I knew at that time that we believed that the accident started with water on car deck. We had reports of small amounts of water, trickles really, on deck no. 1, but then people came out publicly and said that the accident started with water on deck 1 and then it is obvious that I had to rewrite it in a way that is clear that the data we have does not support such an idea.
Q: So, from the existing statements you did not get that impression?
A: That's correct.
Q: You have not been able to talk to passengers who had seen water under the car deck and asked them again?
A: No. "

Had the JAIC questioned Carl Övberg and Carl-Erik Reintamm they would have become quickly aware that there had been a lot of water on deck 1, even before the big heel, and that the water had penetrated the 1st deck with substantial pressure from below - the 0-deck.
      See the statement of Carl Övberg - Enclosure - and the statement of Carl-Erik Reintamm - Enclosure The "Summaries" made by Bengt Schager are available but not enclosed.