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In-depth | DAMAGE STABILITY


and they suggested that the controls and indications that related to the watertight doors had been altered - green lights indicated an open door where normally it would indicate a closed door. “We know that the doors were open


at sea to facilitate passengers and crew movements. It is possible that the local and remote closure function was shut off so that a passenger would not close the door”, writes Mr Björkman. The Final Report states that the key


witnesses in the ECR had informed the commission that the watertight doors were closed aſter the sudden listing had occurred. Te statement is strange because - there is no indication panel in the ECR for watertight doors showing if the doors are open or closed, Mr Björkman claims. German yard officials had interviewed


seamen, who had served on the ship under the Finnish flag) – and they are quoted here: “Te light indication for the watertight doors on the bridge must have been changed aſter the ship was renamed the Estonia, because as long as she sailed under Finnish flag the lights were ‘green’ when the doors were ‘open’ (which was the normal condition) and ‘red’ when the doors were ‘closed’.”


This information would indicate


that when the ship operated under the Finnish flag it did not comply with the SOLAS-rules, which require closed watertight doors to be indicated by green lights. It is probable that Estonia also did


not comply with these rules, as it was impractical to close the watertight doors at sea, as 75% of the passengers on deck 1 could then not visit the public toilets without walking up one flight and down another flight of stairs. It seems also to apply to the passenger


compartments on deck 0. A passenger could take an elevator down to deck 0 and go through watertight doors to the swimming pool, sauna and conference room. Many passengers travelling with the Estonia have said that the watertight doors were always open at sea. Estline employees have given similar statements to the commission.


Incorrect Handling of watertight Doors It is further probable that incorrect handling of the watertight doors contributed to the accident. The watertight doors had a remote indicator


Carl Övberg Estonia passenger


Excerpt from the testimony of Estonia ferry disaster survivor Carl Övberg, residing in cabin 1049 deck 1 on the night of the accident. He said that he went to bed at around 22.30 and was awoken by load metallic banging noises along with sledgehammer bangs and sounds of hydraulics. At the sound of the final loudest metallic crash Estonia came to a juddering halt. From here Mr Övberg takes up the story. “I jumped out of my bed and put on clothes very quickly when I realised that all engine noises had stopped and the


ferry was now making much softer pitch movements, I rushed out of the cabin, turned right towards the stairway, around the aft part of it, through the open WT-door (watertight) towards aft, but turned around after some metres and headed forward, the vessel started to make sideways movements by now (rolling), the door at the port side of the stairway was either open or missing, and I rushed into it, turned right up the stairs when my coat got caught at the beginning of the handrail, I turned round to my right and looked over my right shoulder out through the door opening into the alleyway (corridor), thereby I saw two goose-necks next to the cabin wall… out of these goose-necks water was streaming under great pressure… I also saw water penetrating the door forward of these goose-necks in the next compartment… which according to the drawing belonged to a cleaning room. I saw the water running over the floors. Then I freed myself, whereby I lost my mobile phone which fell down the stairs to 0-deck. I rushed up the stairs. When I was about half way up to the car deck the vessel heeled suddenly and abruptly more than 45 degs, probably 50 degs or 60 degs, to starboard because I was standing on the wall holding the stair rail. The ferry quickly came back to almost upright position and thereafter slowly heeled more and more to starboard. I continued upwards, ie. I pulled myself up whilst the ferry was rolling, ie. Almost uprighted and thereafter heeled to starboard more and more. When I was holding onto the rail in a squatted position during the very wide heel there was an elderly man above me on the stair, whom I passed on my way up after the ferry had more or less uprighted…”


34 The Naval Architect September 2010


on the bridge. Te remote closing of the watertight doors was thus positioned on the bridge. Did the remote closing work? At a questioning by the Commission on 2 November 1994 Åke Sjöblom, ship safety inspector of the Swedish NMA, stated that he did not test (sic) the remote closing of the doors from the bridge. Te reason should have been that you do not do that with 500-600 persons aboard. Mr. Zahlér was supposed to do local testing below. Åke Sjöblom, ship safety inspector of the


Swedish NMA, stated that the “deficiency of the watertight door remote control panel was that the chief officer had no idea what was open or closed. Te lights were green and the chief officer thought (sic) it meant that the doors were closed. And so says the latest SOLAS rules. But on this ship green light meant that the doors were open.” At least two persons told the commission that the watertight door indication panel was incorrect or confusing.


Watertight Doors kept open from the Bridge On 2 November 1994 Mr Gunnar Zahlér, ship safety inspector of the Swedish NMA, was also questioned by the Commission.


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