Survivors and relatives had been seeking millions in damages against a German shipbuilder and the French agency which had certified the ferry as seaworthy. Instead they were ordered to pay the companies' costs.
A French court has rejected a compensation claim over the sinking of the MS Estonia car and passenger ferry in the Baltic Sea in 1994 that claimed 852 lives.
Survivors were compensated by the ferry owner for loss and damages, but the request for compensation from 1,116 plaintiffs has been denied.
The court in Nanterre, Paris, said Friday that claimants failed to prove "intentional fault" or sufficient evidence against German shipbuilder Meyer Werft and French certification agency Bureau Veritas.
Relatives of the deceased, as well as survivors, were seeking a financial settlement of more than €40 million ($45 million) for one of Europe's worst maritime disasters.
Instead, they were ordered to pay costs to the two companies: €70,000 to Bureau Veritas and €35,000 to Meyer Werft.
"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."
Most of the victims of the September 1994 ferry sinking were trapped inside after the Estonia capsized in bad weather and heavy seas off the coast of Finland, on a journey from Tallinn to Stockholm.
Over 200 passengers did manage to escape, but 97 of them died in freezing water and only 137 survived. Of those who died, 501 were Swedish and 285 were Estonian.
An official report in 1997 concluded that a problem with the bow door locking system was the cause of the disaster.
Headquartered in Papenburg, Lower Saxony, Meyer Werft is one of Germany's largest shipyards. It was started in 1795 by the Meyer family, who are still involved in its management. Five of the ten largest cruise ships in the world have been built at the shipyard.
jsi/jm (AFP, dpa)