Liability in maritime passenger transport

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Liability for death and injury of passengers travelling by sea as well as loss and damage to their luggage is governed by the ‘Athens system’ that has emerged since 1961 respectively 1974 in international law. Implemented by its Member States since the 1970s, EU law only recently intervened with Regulation 392/2009 and Regulation 1177/2010. Since December 2012, three layers of law – the Athens Convention 2002, EU Regulations and complementing national law – apply to determine liability in the carrier-passenger relationship. Most relevant documents are available from the website of the IMO Correspondence Group on Provision of Financial Security in Respect of Passenger Claims. The European Commission website also provides useful insight.

International law

December 13, 1974: Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea (PAL). More information available at IMO.org.

November 1, 2002: London Protocol to the Athens Convention

November 20, 2006: IMO Implementation Guidelines

Conventions in force on the global limitation of liability:

  • International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules relating to a Limitation of Liability of Owners of Seagoing Vessels (1924)
  • International Convention relating to the Limitation of Liability of Owners of Seagoing Ships (1957)
  • Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (1976) - LLMC 1976
  • Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (1976), as amended by the Protocol of 1996 to Amend the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims 1976 - LLMC 1996
  • April 29, 1961: Predecessor: International convention for the unification of certain rules relating to Carriage of passengers by sea and protocol (Brussels, 29.4.1961; entered into force: 4.6.1965)

EU ratification

Council Decision of December 12, 2011: Concerning the accession of the European Union to the Protocol of 2002 to the Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea, 1974, with the exception of Articles 10 and 11 thereof. The text of the decision is available at EUR-LEX.

Council Decision of December 12, 2011: Concerning the accession of the European Union to the Protocol of 2002 to the Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea, 1974, as regards Articles 10 and 11 thereof. The text of the decision is available at EUR-LEX.

European law

Regulation (EC) No 392/2009: On the liability of carriers of passengers by sea in the event of accidents. OJ L 131, 28.5.2009, p. 24.

Art. 15 (Compensation in respect of mobility equipment or other specific equipment) of Regulation (EU) No 1177/2010: Concerning the rights of passengers when travelling by sea and inland waterway. OJ L 334, 17.12.2010, p. 1. A legislation summary can be found at Europa.eu.

Statements of EU Institutions

Commission 25.11.2010: IP/10/1603 “New rights for passengers travelling by water”

Commission 4.12.2008: MEMO/08/765 “Questions and answers - Bus and maritime passenger rights proposal”

Commission 24.6.2003: IP/03/884 “Commission proposes to accept IMO’s passenger liability rules”

Written Questions by Members of the European Parliament (rule 117)

Written Question E-7747/2012 by MEP Graham Watson: “Regulation (EU) No 1177/2010 concerning the rights of passengers” with answer of Commissioner Kallas of 22.10.2012

Commentary

IMO Correspondence Group on Provision of Financial Security in Respect of Passenger Claims.

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