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Passenger rights: Europeans better protected when travelling by water

Date: 14/01/2013

Since the end of 2012 new EU rules to better care for passengers when travelling by sea and inland waterway will be protected by a set of minimum rights anywhere within the European Union. As from 31 December, passengers travelling by sea will have the right to claim compensation for loss or damage in the event of accidents.

European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: "We are keeping our promise. We are about to complete the job started some years ago: a coherent policy on passenger rights in Europe for all modes of transport. From now on, the 200 million people travelling by ship every year will have protection under this new set of rules."

Passengers travelling by sea and inland waterways in the EU, and in particular disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility, will benefit from similar rights to those passengers travelling by air or by train. These new rights include:

  • adequate and accessible information for all passengers before and during their journey, as well as general information about their rights in terminals and on board ships;
  • adequate assistance such as snacks, meals, refreshments and, where necessary, accommodation up to three nights, with a financial coverage up to €80 per night in case of cancellation or delay at departure of more than 90 minutes;
  • guaranteed choice between reimbursement or rerouting in case of cancellation or delay at departure of more than 90 minutes;
  • compensation, between 25% and 50% of the ticket price, in situations of delay at arrival;
  • non-discriminatory treatment and specific, free-of-charge, assistance for disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility, both at port terminals and on board ships, as well as financial compensation for loss of or damage to their mobility equipment;
  • mechanisms to handle passenger complaints to be put in place by carriers and terminal operators;
  • appointment of independent national bodies in charge of enforcing the regulation, where appropriate, through the application of penalties.

In addition, as from 31 December 2012, passengers involved in an accident when travelling by sea will have the following rights under EU law:

  • financial compensation in case of death, personal injury, and loss of or damage to luggage, vehicles, and mobility or other special equipment;
  • advance payment (within 15 days) to cover immediate economic needs in case of death or personal injury;
  • direct recourse against the carrier's insurance provider in case of death or personal injury;
  • right to receive appropriate and comprehensible information regarding the above rights prior to or –at the latest – upon departure.


Before the European Commission decided to present its proposal on ship passenger rights four years ago, there was neither international agreement nor EU legislation establishing general rights for this mode of transport. The EU has created some expectations for European consumers by protecting passengers travelling by air and train, and its aiming to extend passenger protection measures to all modes of transport. Now, European legislation ensures that passengers have similar rights everywhere in Europe, irrespective of whether they travel by ship, air or train. Soon a new set of rules for passengers travelling by bus will also enter into force.

Next steps

  • All information about passenger rights is downloadable on smartphones with a free-of-charge application. It works on all platforms. Maritime passenger rights will be available as from January 2013, first in English and subsequently in all the other languages.
  • The European Commission will hold the first meeting with national authorities appointed by EU Member States in 2013 in order to coordinate the effective application of maritime passenger rights legislation.
  • On 3 March 2013, the Single market for passenger rights in Europe will be completed with new legislation concerning the rights of passenger travelling by bus and coach.

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