Sweden to conduct new probe into ferry tragedy

  • 2005-03-23
  • By TBT staff
TALLINN - Sweden's government has decided to carry out a new probe into the 1994 ferry disaster, which took hundreds of lives, after Swedish military officers confirmed that the ferry had transported military equipment on previous trips.

Mona Sahlin, Sweden's minister for sustainable development, told the TT news agency that the government's decision to re-open the tragic case did not mean there were doubts to the cause of the accident, which was determined in a previous investigation.

"We want to use a new technique to answer questions about why the ship sank so fast," said Sahlin.

A recent governmental investigation confirmed that the ship, the Estonia, was transporting military equipment from Tallinn to Stockholm on Sept. 14 and Sept. 20, 1994, though the cargo was not explosive.

Over 800 people died as the Estonia ferry sank on Sept. 28, 1994, on its way from Tallinn to Stockholm.

The Swedish government is ready to allocate about 900,000 euros to new investigation research, which will be commissioned by the Swedish Agency for Innovation Systems, an organization dealing with maritime safety programs. The research's primary objective will be to improve maritime safety for ships in Swedish waters, the agency said.

The Joint Accident Investigation Commission of Estonian, Finnish and Swedish experts, provided a final report on the disaster in December 1997, stating that the ship had a number of serious defects. The main cause was ruled to be a defect in the front bow door, which allowed seawater to flood the car deck.

Still, the Swedish Agency for Innovation Systems pointed out that the JAIC report contained some blank spots, and failed to thoroughly explain certain details of the tragedy.

Estonian officials are also trying to establish the truth about the tragedy, which was the worst the country has seen in a decade. This week, the Center Party's parliamentary faction proposed establishing a commission to investigate details behind the transportation of military equipment.

The party had earlier recalled a similar bill, saying that the duties of the expert commission, which the government formed in the beginning of March, had become too blurry. The latter will report to the government by September 2005.

Center Party MP Evelyn Sepp said a new commission is necessary since the public recently received information that the Swedish army and an Estonian company used the ferry to secretly transport military equipment and Russian electronics.

Sepp also pointed out that, during his visit to Sweden, Prime Minister Juhan Parts discussed the transportation of military equipment with his Swedish counterpart Goran Persson. Sepp added that, in general, Parts had expressed support in establishing an investigative commission.