Accidents at sea
Accidents at sea

The following PI & Clinical Negligence practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Accidents at sea
  • Carrier
  • International carriage by sea
  • Liability for accidents
  • Limits on Liability
  • Limitation
  • Jurisdiction
  • Practitioner issues
  • Failure to plead the applicability of the Athens Convention
  • Bringing the claim

Brexit: Since the UK applies the provisions of the Athens Convention directly by the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 it is difficult to envisage that following the UK’s departure from the EU there will be any change. For guidance, see Practice Note: Brexit—considerations for personal injury claims.

Originally produced in partnership with Sarah Prager of 1 Chancery Lane. Updated in partnership with Andrew Wilson.

Almost all accidents at sea are governed by the Athens Convention (the Convention), which is given effect in the United Kingdom by section 183 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 (MSA 1995). The Convention governs the liability of carriers to travellers in respect of accidents occurring in the course of international carriage by sea. These terms require some definition:


A carrier is either:

  1. the party on whose behalf the contract of carriage has been made; or

  2. a performing carrier, being the party who actually performs the contract

The carrier with whom the contract is made will be liable under the contract, even if performance is entrusted to a different carrier. However, the performing carrier is jointly and severally liable with the contractual carrier for the parts of the contract performed by him.

International carriage by sea

The Convention applies to any international carriage by sea if:

  1. the ship is flying the flag of a state party to the Convention

  2. the contract has been made in a state party to the

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