The Sinking Of Estonia 1994

18 years have passed since the one of the worst maritime disasters in peacetime naval history of the 20th century.  The ferry Estonia was on its way from Tallinn to Stockholm when got caught up in the storm, capsized and sunk with 852 people on board. 17 of them were from Latvia. Along with victims there 501 Swedes, 282 Estonians 10 Finns and 44 people from other countries including Canada and Nigeria. So it was an international disaster. The official explanation was that  the locks on the bow door had failed from the strain of the waves and the door had separated from the rest of the vessel, pulling ajar the ramp behind it. The bow visor and ramp had been torn off at points that would not trigger an “open” or “unlatched” warning on the bridge, as is the case in normal operation or failure of the latches. The bridge was also situated too far back on the ferry for the visor to be seen from there. While there was video monitoring of the inner ramp, the monitor on the bridge was not visible from the conning station. The bow visor was under-designed for the conditions Estonia was operating in (the ferry was designed for coastal waters, not open regions like the Baltic Sea), and the visor’s overhang focused the impact on a small area. The subsequent failure of the bow ramp allowed water into the vehicle deck, which was listed as the main cause of the capsizing and sinking. The report was critical of the crew’s actions, particularly for failing to reduce speed before investigating the noises emanating from the bow, and for being unaware that the list was being caused by water entering the vehicle deck. There were also general criticisms of the delays in sounding the alarm, the passivity of the crew and the lack of guidance from the bridge. So it was a human error that might cause the tragedy.

However, pretty soon the actions by the Swedish government and many unanswered questions led to speculations that grew stronger in the following years that denied the official explanation. The question was it not a human error that led to sinking but the human treachery and crime done by foreign service that caused this disaster. This article does not fully endorse the alternative explanations of the sinking, as they are not fully proven and might sound as conspiracy theories, but facts that lead to alternative explanation  are plausible and it’s up to anyone to themselves to believe them.

The questions aroused because of the Swedish government frantic efforts to block recovery of the victims from the shipwreck. All offers to retrieve the bodies were blocked and  promises from two consequent Swedish prime ministers to do so was fulfilled and after three months of the tragedy the government announced that the there will be no recovery and salvage operation.

Instead they hired a Dutch marine salvage firm Smit Tak BV that specializes in nuclear waste removal. A 350 million dollars were wasted to cover the ship in concrete. The wreck lies in the soft mud at 60-80 meters depth. The official reason for such action was to make the wreck a cemetery that is not accessible to anyone. But, why give the task to firm that specializes in nuclear waste management? And by covering the shipwreck in concrete may mean that the government has something to hide from the public. As shown in a future that was the case.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union many Soviet military and intelligence secrets became open to the western public. For the west the most interesting was the Soviet technology that was a mystery for many and still are for many. No wonder that many in the West are obsessed with collecting the Soviet artifacts of all kinds. But, it was not just the individuals that were interested in Soviet equipment it were Western military and intelligence agencies And the Baltic states were full of such equipment. In 2005 the Estonian parliamentary inquiry concluded that Estonia might procured to western agencies special equipment and high technology of the Soviet army. The transfers included space electronics, high technology directing and surveillance devices as well as anti-aircraft complexes and electronic control systems. In one case the Estonian intelligence agency was officially offered to sell a Russian space electronic device that enabled military reconnaissance with infrared cameras. Also even so-called nuclear briefcases could have been taken out of Russia. The Russian intelligence and military certainly disliked this.

The Swedish media have discovered and confirmed that ferry Estonia was used for Soviet weapon transfers from Estonia to Sweden. One of the disaster survivors remembers that immediately before Estonia  left Tallinn on its final voyage the harbor was sealed off and that the military convoy escorted two large trucks into waiting ferry. After that the car ramp and bow visor were closed and ship set sail to Stockholm. Former customs chief Lennart Henrrikson reported on Swedish TV that on two occasions shortly before the disaster Estonia had allowed vehicles carrying Soviet military equipment in to the vessel without inspections. He had been ordered to allow certain vehicles carrying Soviet military contraband to pass Swedish customs without inspection on September 14 and 20, 1994, but was not working the day Estonia sank because he was on vacation. The ferry was owned by Nordström & Thulin, and Estline that was owned by the Estonian government.

The Swedish and Estonian governments subsequently launched separate investigations, headed by Court of Appeal President Johan Hirschfeldt and Republic Prosecutor Margus Kurm, respectively. Both investigations confirmed that military equipment was aboard the ship on 14 and 20 September 1994, though it remained unclear if any such equipment was aboard the ship on the day of the disaster.

According to Henriksson a secret agreement between Swedish military supreme commander Owe Wictorin and Swedish customs chief Ulf Larsson was made to allow military contraband to enter Sweden without being inspected by the customs. Normally Swedish customs inspected every Estonian vehicle.

When the ferry arrived in Sept. 14, 1994, Henriksson spoke to the driver of the expected vehicle, a Volvo 745 station wagon driven by a Frank Larsson, a false identity.

When Henriksson told “Larsson” that customs was carrying out inspections, he “gavee a look, but I said the search would be faked,” Henriksson said. “We opened a few boxes and as far as I could see it was military electronics in them.”The customs slip showed the car belonging to a non-existent company called “Ericsson Access AB,” a fictitious subsidiary of AB LM Ericsson Finance. No address was given. The ending destination of the Soviet military equipment is not known. It could pretty much believable that such equipment may also be present on the last trip on the ferry.

A week later, on September 20 1994 a much larger shipment of contraband technology arrived and was allowed to pass without inspection. This time it was a van and, once again, Henriksson merely glanced into the boxes. On December 2, 2004, two days after the SVT 1 exposé, the Swedish military confirmed on Ekot radio that this secret agreement existed and is still in effect.

There are questions regarding the official explanation of the disaster. Some people called the official inquiry results the worst fraud in the naval history. The independent safety expert  Anders Björkman who wrote many books about the disaster said that there is no proof that the waves caused the opening of the ships bow visor and car ramp. A 4 meter waves could not do that by his mind. The ship never capsized it just sunk. It’s known that the visor was found separated from the wreck and taken out of water as a proof for official theory. There is speculation that the authorities removed the visor from the shipwreck to prove their fabricated theory. In reality the visor might had nothing to do with the sinking.

There are theories about the soviet equipment that was on board Estonia according to German journalist Jutta Rabe the United States Pentagon had ordered a  an advanced Soviet nuclear reactor for generating power in space. Leonard Caveny, deputy director of innovative science and technology of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) program at the Pentagon, traveled to Soviet space labs near Moscow, where a team of experts tested a tiny space engine that uses magnetic fields instead of fuel to move a spacecraft.

The Soviets had plutonium-238 and heat-resistant alloys completely unknown in the West, including one made of palladium and osmium able to withstand temperatures to 3,600 degrees Celsius. The Air Force was interested in the RD-170, reportedly the best liquid-fuel rocket engine in the world.

There have been many unofficial dives on the shipwreck. Three separate sets of tests had been carried out on metal fragments recovered from the wreck by divers.  Distortion in the metal showed there had been an explosion. Its denied by official Swedish research institutions.

To question who has caused the explosion and the sinking the point obviously links to whom were less interested of transfer of such important technology. Its either the Russian intelligence service or inside group of Russian nationalists within the intelligence ranks and military. A Felix Group that included Vladimir Putin and Igor Ivanov who were against the sale of soviet goods to US.

If so then the Swedish agencies knew this and tried to hide any sign of their own guilt. The official divers according to reports of Rabe were looking for black leather case among the cabins. Finally, the case was found in Cabin No. 6130, a cabin usually used by Captain Avo Piht. The diver reads from the case: “It says Aleksandr Voronin. Does that ring any bells up there?”. Voronin was a Russian space technology dealer.

Another mystery that points to the intelligence agency involvement is unexplained disappearances of Estonia crew members that officials have been rescued, but then disappeared. 12 such Estonian crew members that were on board have never seen again. They may have been subjects of government organized enforced disappearance. It is known that Sweden has organized such action with an Egyptian born terror suspect who was boarded on the private US jet. It may be the same jets were used to enforce disappearance of the crew members. These people were the main witnesses about the ship’s cargo, ship condition and ships sinking reason.

Final mystery is the disappearance of the Estonia captain Avo Piht. After the disaster many reported that he had survived.  It was reported in the media that the captain was in hospital in Finland. Bengt-Erik Stenmark, security chief of the Swedish Maritime Administration told Reuters that the international investigation committee had even interviewed Captain Avo Piht. Neither Stenmark nor Reuters has ever retracted this statement. The German television network ZDF broadcast a video clip on September 28 of Avo Piht and other survivors arriving at Turku University Hospital in Finland. This video was later confiscated by German intelligence agents, according to Rabe.  The captain and the main chief engineer Lembit Leiger were never seen again afterwards. His wife was told that he will arrive in Tallinn but he never returned.

These are the facts that lead to an alternative explanation of the sinking of ferry Estonia. Why the Swedish and Estonian agencies decided to transport secret military equipment on the civilian ferry ship and was the Russian secret service involved in the sinking remains unanswered question. It would be sinister madness to sink the civilian vessel with a thousand people on board to prevent the transfer of military equipment. There are no substantial clues of how exactly the sinking was carried out. But the history of the Russian secret service proves that it is capable of such operation the innocent human life’s Russian or foreigner has been a little worry for Russian government in all of its history. And as the Swedish and Estonian government and agencies are still pretty silent about the tragedy and blocks access to new clues about the disaster. So as this continues the question why the ferry sunk is still unanswered and will lead to further speculations.

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