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Liability of carriers of passengers by sea in the event of accidents

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Liability of carriers of passengers by sea in the event of accidents

This Regulation aims at introducing a Community regime of liability and insurance for the carriage of passengers by sea in order to improve compensation for passengers who suffer damages and to improve the safety of maritime transport.


Regulation (EC) No 392/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the liability of carriers of passengers by sea in the event of accidents (Text with EEA relevance).


This Regulation lays down a harmonised regime of liability and insurance for the carriage of passengers by sea, based on:

  • Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea 1974, as amended by the Protocol of 2002 on the carriage of passengers; and
  • International Maritime Organization (IMO) guidelines for implementation of the Athens Convention, adopted in 2006.


This Regulation applies to all international carriage * and carriage by sea within a single Member State on board ships of Classes A * and B pursuant to Directive 98/18/EC when:

  • the ship is flying the flag of or is registered in a Member State;
  • the contract of carriage has been signed in a Member State;
  • the place of departure or of destination as laid down in the contract of carriage is situated within a Member State. Member States are free to extend the scope of this regulation to all domestic sea-going voyages.

Liability and insurance

According to the new liability regime established by the Regulation and taken from the Athens Convention, for damages related to navigation accidents victims shall be covered by an ipso jure liability regime but must prove a fault on the part of the carrier in order to be compensated for damages falling under the category of “innkeeper” liability.

The limitations of liability to which carriers are entitled under the Athens Convention and the 2002 Protocol are also included and the overall limitations of liability established in application of the 1976 Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, as amended by the Protocol of 1996, are not affected.

Carriers must all maintain insurance and victims shall be entitled to make claims directly against the insurer.

If mobility equipment or any other equipment used by a passenger with reduced mobility is lost or damaged, the carrier shall be liable if the loss arising is the result of a fault or neglect on their part.

Advance payment

In the event of death or personal injury to a passenger caused by a shipping incident, the carrier responsible for all or part of the carriage shall make an advance payment proportionate to the damages suffered. However, this advance payment shall not constitute recognition of liability.

Information to passengers

The carrier or performing carrier shall ensure that passengers are informed clearly and precisely of their rights under this Regulation. The information shall be provided in the most appropriate format:

  • at all points of sale, including by telephone and via the Internet where the contract of carriage is signed in a Member State;
  • prior to departure where the place of departure is in a Member State;
  • upon departure in all other cases.


The Commission shall present a report on the application of the Regulation three years after the date of its application. The report shall take into account developments in international fora and those in the economic situation.

Committee procedure

The Committee on Safe Seas and the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (COSS) established by Regulation 2099/2002/EC shall assist the Commission.

Transitional provisions

Where carriage by sea is carried out within a single Member State, Member States may defer the application of this Regulation:

  • for ships of Class A until four years after the date of its application;
  • for ships of Class B until 31 December 2018.

Entry into force

This Regulation shall apply from the date of the entry into force of the Athens Convention for the Community, and in any case from no later than 31 December 2012.


This Regulation forms part of the framework of the Common Transport Policy and the necessity to improve safety in maritime transport. It incorporates some provisions of the Protocol of 2002 to the 1974 Athens Convention, which the Community and Member States should adhere to.

Key terms of the Act

  • International carriage: any carriage in which, according to the contract of carriage, the place of departure and the place of destination are situated in two different States, or in a single State if, according to the contract of carriage or the scheduled itinerary, there is an intermediate port of call in another State
  • Passenger ship classes:
    • “Class A”: a passenger ship engaged on domestic voyages other than voyages covered by Classes B, C and D.
    • “Class B”: a passenger ship engaged on domestic voyages in the course of which it is at no time more than 20 miles from the line of coast, where shipwrecked persons can land, corresponding to the medium tide height.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation 392/2009



 OJ L 131 of 28.5.2009,

Last updated: 19.10.2009