A French court has turned down a bid by survivors and families of the victims of the Estonia ferry sinking to extract compensation from Bureau Veritas (BV).

They were suing the French class society and German shipbuilder Meyer Werft for €40m ($45m) following the 1994 Baltic Sea disaster that killed 852 people - still the second-worst peacetime maritime loss of life after the Titanic.

A total of 1,116 plaintiffs were instead ordered to pay the companies' costs - €70,000 to BV and €35,000 to the yard, AFP reported.

"This is too much, to say the least," said lawyer Francois Lombrez. "After 22 years of procedures, I think they could have spared the victims that."

A storm ripped off the bow door while the vessel was en route from Tallinn to Stockholm.

Compensation had already been paid by the ferry owner.

The court in Paris said on Friday that claimants failed to prove "intentional fault" or provide sufficient evidence against the two firms.

More than 200 people escaped from the ship, but 97 of them then died in freezing waters.

An official report in 1997 concluded that a problem with the bow door locking system was the cause of the disaster.