The latest probe was initiated after a 2020 television documentary included video images from the wreck site showing a hole in the hull measuring 4 meters (13 feet) on the starboard side. Officials have said that the wreck does have a hole, about 22 meters (72 feet) long and 4 meters (13 feet) high.
The hole and other damage have become more visible because the wreck has “twisted 13 degrees” due to changes in the seabed, Jonas Bäckstrand, deputy head of the Swedish Accident Investigation Authority said. The commission had used underwater footage and computerized images.
“It looks like it has been damaged by the impact when it hit the seabed,” said Bäckstrand as he presented the intermediate report on the preliminary assessment in Tallinn, Estonia.
“We are not done yet,” he said, adding this was only a preliminary conclusion and more investigation was planned.
A leading theory was that the Estonia was carrying military equipment and that there was some sort of explosion. The Swedish Armed Forces has said it used the ferry to transport only electronic-type equipment but not on the fateful night.
The 74-page report concluded that the ferry was not deemed seaworthy because an inspection of the bow had not been conducted.
“If such an inspection, following regulations, had been carried out, the flaws of the visor construction (on the bow) could have been discovered, and the accident would probably not have occurred,” the report said.
The panel said it's now within its purview to recommend any legal action regarding who should be held accountable.
The wreck lies on the seabed 80 meters (265 feet) below the surface in international waters off a Finnish island, and is considered a graveyard, which gives the area protection under the law.