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Title: Liability of ship owners in the event of accidents
Sectors of Transport: Transport, Transport, Maritime & inland waterways, Passenger rights & social issues
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Liability of ship owners in the event of accidents

Liability of ship owners in the event of accidents

Passengers involved in maritime accidents must have an adequate level of compensation for any loss or damage they suffer. To ensure this, ship owners must have appropriate insurance arrangements in place.


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



It lays down harmonised rules on liability and insurance for shipping companies carrying passengers by sea. It introduces into European law the provisions of the 1974 Athens Convention on the carriage of passengers and their luggage by sea and guidelines from the International Maritime Organisation.


  • The legislation applies to all ships flying an EU country flag, travelling to or from a European port, or under a European contract of carriage (i.e. a contract between the carrier and its passengers defining rights, duties and liabilities).
  • The legislation currently applies to both international and domestic voyages, but it does not apply to domestic voyages in the course of which the ship is less than 5 miles from the coastline.
  • The operators’ liability covers passengers and their luggage and vehicles, as well as mobility equipment for persons with reduced mobility.
  • For any injury or damage caused by a shipping incident (i.e. shipwreck, capsizing, collision or stranding, fire or explosion, or other defect of the ship), victims do not need to prove fault on the part of the carrier in order to be compensated.
  • Ship operators must make an advance payment to cover the immediate economic needs of a passenger who is killed or injured in a shipping incident. This payment does not imply the shipping company acknowledges liability.
  • The minimum advance payment for the death of a passenger is €21,000.
  • Shipping companies must provide passengers with understandable information on their rights.
  • This information must be available at all points of sale, including by phone and the internet, and provided before, or at the latest on, departure.
  • The European Commission, no later than 3 years after the legislation takes effect (31 December 2012), must produce a report on how it is being applied.
  • EU governments may postpone application of the legislation for ships involved in purely domestic voyages covered by the regulation. For vessels which travel less than 20 miles from the shore, the deadline is 31 December 2018 at the latest. For all others, the deadline is 31 December 2016.


From 29 May 2009.

For more information, see Passenger rights on the European Commission’s website.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 392/2009



OJ L 131, 28.5.2009, pp. 24-46

last update 30.09.2015

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