From the BBC:
A Paris court has rejected a claim for compensation over the 1994 sinking of the Estonia ferry.
More than 1,000 survivors and relatives of victims requested €40.8m (£36.6m;$45.8m) from the French agency that deemed the vessel seaworthy and the German shipbuilder.
But the court said the claimants failed to prove “intentional fault”.
The sinking of the MS Estonia killed 852 people, making it one of history’s deadliest European maritime disasters.
The vessel was sailing from Estonia to Sweden on 28 September 1994 when it sank in the Baltic Sea. Most passengers on board the ship were trapped inside after it capsized, while 97 who managed to leave the vessel died in freezing water. There were 137 survivors.
There was always something about that disaster which intrigued me, and I’m not sure what. It might have been that it was the first time I’d ever heard of Estonia and Tallinn: these were names you didn’t really hear mentioned much, even four years after the dissolution after the Soviet Union. This was before the days of Schengen and stag dos; the Baltic states still retained that air of eastern bloc mystique, which was probably the driver of the conspiracy theory that it was a deliberate sinking due to the presence on board of smuggled ex-Soviet military intelligence personnel/secret military equipment (delete as appropriate). There were then rumours that the wreck had been interfered with, and the Swedish government ordered it encased in concrete to prevent anyone finding the truth. I even once met a ship surveyor who claimed some involvement in the investigation and swore the wreck had been physically moved, which he interpreted as evidence of skulduggery. This was a long time ago, and if I believed him then I don’t now. The simple fact is, ferries have always been surprisingly dangerous compared to other forms of transport, mainly due to poor economics, poor maintenance, and crew/owner complacency. I can’t imagine standards in Estonia in 1994 were very high; poor cargo distribution meant the MS Estonia was listing to starboard as it left the port, before the accident with the bow door even happened.
I think what really struck me about the accident is how quickly it unfolded. The ship listed 15 degrees immediately, and fifteen minutes later was at 60 degrees. Twenty minutes later it was at 90 degrees. You can imagine what that’s like, at one o’clock in the morning in September in the middle of the Baltic Sea as freezing water rushes in and the lights go out. Little wonder that out of 989 people on board, only 138 were rescued alive. When in January 2013 I took a ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn during the day, I went out on deck and peered over the edge. That was bad enough. I thought of the poor souls aboard the MS Estonia and shuddered. I still do.