Should you be unlucky enough to suffer an injury as a result of an accident on board a ship, what are your rights?
As a passenger, any accident, illness (contracted on board) or food poisoning occurring during the process of embarking or disembarking or during the voyage is most likely to be governed by the Athens Convention.
The Athens Convention (2002 protocol) lays down an exclusive regime for liability on the part of the carrier to its passenger in respect of loss and damage as a result of injury or death. The regime is essentially fault-based and requires the passenger to prove that the incident which gave rise to injury occurred in the course of the carriage and was due to the fault or neglect of the carrier or of his servants or agents acting in the course of their employment.
However, as of 23 April 2014, passengers have also enjoyed increased rights of compensation for personal injury, loss and damage suffered during the course of carriage at sea. The new Protocol, as well as raising the limits of liability for passengers' claims, also requires carriers to maintain insurance (or other financial security) to cover the limits of strict liability under the Convention in respect of the death or personal injury to passengers as a result of a ‘shipping accident’. A ‘shipping accident’ is defined as a shipwreck, capsize, collision or stranding of the ship, explosion or fire, or a defect in the ship. Strict liability only arises in these circumstances.
Where strict liability applies, the carrier will be liable unless it can prove that the incident resulted from an act of war, hostilities, civil war, insurrection or any natural phenomenon.
The liability of the carrier for the death or personal injury to a passenger is limited to 250,000 Special Drawing Rights (SDR) per passenger. The daily conversion rates for SDR can be found on the International Monetary Fund website.
If the claim exceeds the limit of 250,000 SDR, then the carrier may be liable to a further limit of 400,000 SDR per passenger, unless the carrier can prove that the loss occurred without the fault or neglect of the carrier.