A major change coming into force this Spring is the increase in limits of liability for passenger accidents. This has been triggered following Belgium becoming the tenth country to opt in to the Athens 2002 protocol in April 2013. Here are the main changes…
Where death or injury results from a “shipping-related incident”, liability will be strict and injured passengers will be able to recover damages without needing to prove fault or negligence on the part of the carrier. Fault-based liability will therefore be replaced with strict liability.
This means that the carrier will be liable unless he can show that the incident resulted from an act of war, hostilities, civil war, insurrection, or a natural phenomenon of an exceptional, inevitable, and irresistible character; or was wholly caused by an act or omission by a third party done with the intent to cause the incident.
“Shipping-related incident” is defined as shipwreck, capsizing, collision, or stranding of the ship, explosion, or fire in the ship, or defect in the ship.
“Defect in the ship” means any malfunction, failure, or non-compliance with applicable safety regulations in respect of any part of the ship or its equipment when used for the escape, evacuation, embarkation, and disembarkation of passengers; or when used for the propulsion, steering, safe navigation, mooring, anchoring, arriving at or leaving berth or anchorage, or damage control after flooding; or when used for the launching of life-saving appliances.
What journeys will it apply to?
From 30 December 2016 it will also apply to domestic voyages within the UK on board Class A ships (engaged on domestic voyages but operating more than 20 miles from the coast).
From 30 December 2018 it will apply to Class B ships (engaged on domestic voyages at no more than 20 miles from the coast).
NB. Carriers can agree with passengers that deductibles will apply of up to SDR 330 in relation to vehicle damage and up to SDR 149 in relation to loss of or damage to luggage.
Advice for operators?
Operators should read MCA Notice MIN 448(M) particularly in relation to the certification that will be required by the MCA confirming that appropriate levels of insurance are in place. The certificate will need to be carried on board and produced on demand. Failure to comply constitutes an offence punishable by way of a fine, and the vessel could also be detained.
This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.