Maritime safety is more modern 20 years after the Estonia disaster

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It is very much better, but there is still a great deal left to do. That is the summary of safety at sea by Chalmers professor and sea safety expert, Olle Rutgersson, 20 years after the Estonia capsized.
On the night of 28 September 1994, the ferry ship Estonia sank in the Baltic Sea on a journey between Tallinn and Stockholm. 852 people lost their lives, of which 501 were Swedes. Only 137 survived. The accident was the largest ever in the Baltic Sea in peacetime. Olle Rutgersson does not believe that the tragedy could happen again in our waters.
”Our maritime safety is more modern since the Estonia disaster and stability is much better than it was then. These days a ferry must be able to remain upright with a half a metre of water on the deck. In Estonia’s time, ships could not even manage one decimetre of water,” he says.
In spite of this, Olle Rutgersson thinks that the stability requirements are far from adequate, in particular on cruise ships.
”Increased stability is by far the best way to improve safety. I have heard other experts who have calculated stability and said that it isn’t good enough. Passenger ships cannot withstand a large amount of damage before they heel over and capsize,” he says.
Life-saving equipment also has improved since the Estonia disaster. Life jackets must be fitted with lights, lifeboats are now covered and there is a requirement for fast rescue boats that can be launched to pick up people in the water. But lifting people out of lifeboats or from the water is still a huge challenge, especially if there is a major shipwreck involving several thousand people.
”The rapid life boats we have got should be able to manage three-metre waves. When Estonia sank the waves were four meters high, and it is doubtful whether anyone would dare to launch a lifeboat in that situation,” says Olle Rutgersson.
Linda Sundgren

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