Ships and ferries are often a cheaper and more relaxed way to travel than flying, and within the EU they can offer comfortable ways to travel amongst some fantastic islands and coastal resorts (providing you aren’t prone to seasickness).
However things can go wrong when you travel by sea – and it’s important you prepare yourself and know your rights before you travel in case things don’t go to plan for your journey. Your rights for travelling at sea are protected by EU Regulation 1177/2010.
As with all other major travel within the EU, a basic right that is protected by the regulation is that you will never pay extra for a ship or ferry fare based on your nationality, or where you are when you buy the ticket – you’ll pay the same as a local traveler would.
Delays and cancellations
You are entitled to certain rights when your journey by sea is delayed or cancelled, but there are exceptions. These specific rights only apply if:
- You are departing from, or arriving at, an EU port
- Your ship carries 13 or more passengers
- Your ship has 4 or more crew members
- Your journey (one-way) is 500 metres or more
- You aren’t travelling on a historic ship
- Your vessel isn’t a designated excursion or sightseeing ship – e.g. it must have accommodation facilities, or you must be staying on-board for more than two nights.
If your service is delayed by 90 minutes or more, or it is cancelled completely, your operator should offer you a choice:
- A return trip to your original departure point, if this applies, should your journey now become redundant (at no cost)
- Alternative travel under similar conditions to your destination, at the earliest opportunity and at no extra cost
You may also be entitled to meals/refreshments and accommodation, depending on the length of your delay.
If you continue your journey and arrive at your destination more than one hour later, you are entitled to claim compensation – 25% or 50% of your fare, depending on the total length of your delay. You won’t receive compensation should the delay be due to natural disasters or severe weather problems.
Accidents at sea
If you are travelling and suffer an accident which leads to an injury, you can claim compensation either from the ship owner or their insurer. If you were to die at sea due to an accident, your dependents can make a claim. You can also claim an advance payment for injury or death to help with immediate problems in the following circumstances:
- Stranding of the ship
- Explosion or fire on-board
- A defect in the ship.
Luggage & belongings
If your luggage is damaged or lost while at sea as part of an accident, you’re entitled to compensation. This includes vehicles and any damage to wheelchairs or other mobility equipment that you may experience.
You need to lodge a complaint about lost or damaged luggage as soon as possible – ideally before you get off the ship, but at the latest within 15 days of disembarkation. Complaints must be lodged in writing.
If you feel that your rights are not being enforced by the carrier, you can complain to them within two months of the date of any incident. The carrier must reply within one month to acknowledge your complaint, and their final reply should come no more than 2 months from your original complaint.
If you wish to claim compensation for injury or loss, you can do so by submitting a claim for compensation to a court:
- In a country where the carrier has its head office, or
- In the country of your departure or destination, or
- In your own country, if the carrier does business there, or
- In the country where you signed the travel contract, if the carrier does business there.
Claims must be brought to courts within two years of any incident.
Don’t forget your rights when at sea – print out this webpage if it will help you! Be prepared and you can shout about your rights when something goes wrong, rather than trying to argue a case at a later date when it can be trickier.