Swedish court fines two filmmakers for disturbing wreck site of ferry that sank in Baltic Sea in 1994

A court in the Swedish city of Gothenburg has found two individuals guilty of the charge of illegally disturbing the wreck site of a passenger vessel that sank in the Baltic Sea in one of the deadliest maritime incidents of the late 20th century.

Swedish filmmakers Henrik Evertsson and Linus Andersson have been named as defendants in a court case in connection with the sunken Ro-Pax ferry Estonia, which was lost along with over 800 passengers and crew on September 28, 1994.

Swedish law prohibits diving and other underwater activities from being carried out within a defined area around Estonia‘s wreck. The ferry lies at a depth of more than 70 metres in international waters off Uto Island, Finland.

On September 23 to 24, 2019, a film crew conducted dives and filmed the wreck of the sunken Estonia as part of the production of a documentary about the vessel, its sinking, and its later discovery.

The Gothenburg District Court said Evertsson was the production manager while Andersson operated some of the equipment that was used to record video footage of the wreck. The filming was conducted from a German-flagged vessel.

The defendants have objected that the legislation does not apply because it contravenes international law as expressed in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). They have also claimed that they both believed that their actions were not punishable because the dives took place in international waters from a German-flagged ship, and that the constitutional principles of the right to freedom of expression and information outweigh the purpose of criminalisation.

The district court found that prosecutors were able to prove that the two men were guilty of violating the law that covered the protection of the Estonia wreck site.

Presiding judge Göran Lundahl remarked that the wreck site is the final resting place of a large number of people, hence the preservation of the site outweighs interest in protecting freedom of expression and information.

The court added that the defendants will not face imprisonment and will instead be made to only pay set fines due to their motives for exploring and filming the wrecked vessel.

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