QCR Spring 2018: Definition of carriage under the Athens Convention

Collins v Lawrence [2017] EWCA Civ 2268


The claimant went on a fishing trip on a boat owned by the defendant. In order to disembark, the practice was to winch the boat up onto a single beach, and then use free-standing, semi-permanent steps to descend onto the beach. The disembarkation equipment, i.e. the steps, were provided by the defendant. The claimant injured himself while disembarking and claimed damages for personal injury.

The claim turned on the definition of carriage under Article 1(8) of the Athens Convention for the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea 1974 as amended by the 2002 Protocol (the "Athens Convention") which defines carriage as "the period during which the passenger and/or his cabin luggage are on board the ship or in the course of embarkation or disembarkation.However, with regard to the passenger, carriage does not include the period during which he is in a marine terminal or station or on a quay or in or on any other port installation" [emphasis added]. The judge at first instance found that disembarkation was not completed until the claimant was established safely on the beach. Therefore, the Athens Convention applied and the claim was time barred due to the two-year limitation period. The claimant sought permission to appeal against this decision but permission was denied.


The Court of Appeal agreed with the judge at first instance and found that the process of disembarkation under the Athens Convention covered the whole period of moving from the vessel to a safe position on the shore and while a person was still using equipment which facilitated disembarkation provided by the defendant, such as the steps in this case, the person was still in the process of disembarking. The court accordingly agreed with the judge at first instance that the claim falls under the Athens Convention and therefore the claim is time barred. The court found that the above claim is similar to circumstances in which a passenger is using the ship's gangway or is transported to the shore by ship's tenders. The court distinguished the above situations from circumstances in which a port installation is used during disembarkation.


This is a helpful decision as it clarifies the definition of carriage under the Athens Convention. It should be read in conjunction with Jennings v TUI UK Limited and The "Norwegian Jade" [2017] EWCA Civ 2222.

Please click on the link below for the Club's article on these cases, "Legal Update: key ruling on the definition of "carriage" under the Athens Convention":


Staff Author