1994 ferry sinking remains a live issue for families of victims

Passengers and families of victims of the ferry Estonia, which sank in 1994 claiming the lives of hundreds of people, are seeking an additional investigation into the causes of the tragedy.

The Government of Estonia said that it would form a working group to determine what would further action be concerning the application from survivors and victims’ families. An expected overview of plans is set to be released in March.

The sinking of Estonia was described as the worst ever peacetime maritime disaster on the Baltic Sea. A total of 852 people from 17 countries died. There were 501 Swedish nationals among the dead and 285 Estonians. There were 137 survivors.

The working group, which consists of the country’s top ministers, is being established in the wake of a decision in October 2019 by Tallinn Administrative Court. The decision obliged the Estonian government to respond to the application of Swedish citizens regarding the launch of administrative proceedings to re-investigate the sinking of the vessel.

Estonia sank on the night of September 28th 1994 in strong waves and bad weather, while en route from Tallinn to Stockholm. The majority of the passengers were trapped inside the ship and could not be rescued.

There have already been two investigations into the incident, one from 1994 to 1997, when the sinking was investigated by a joint committee of the governments of Estonia, Finland, and Sweden, and one from 2005 to 2009 by an Estonian government committee led by the Prosecutor’s Office.

The report into the accident said that the bow door visor attachments had not been designed to realistic design assumptions and should have been stronger.

The survivors received compensation from the owner of the vessel. However, their lawsuit seeking compensation from German shipbuilder Meyer Werft and classification society Bureau Veritas was rejected by a French court in 2019.