The Athens Convention of 1974
This Convention or treaty is known as " Carriage of Passengers And Their Luggage by Sea, 1974)." Reference to the Convention in passenger tickets is used primarily by European shipping operations such as passenger vessels and ferries. The Convention has not been ratified by the United States although reference to the Convention is cropping up in passenger tickets provided to United States residents by some foreign flagged cruise lines. For example it appears as clause 19 in the latest passenger ticket of Carnival Cruise Lines. Since it is difficult to ascertain what the Athens Convention is all about, this article may be enlightening. I am not a lawyer nor offering legal advice. Much of the following is verbatim from the Convention provided by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Prior to the Athens Convention passenger ticket the forum selection clause required the passenger wishing to sue the vessel operators to file suit in a particular court. This is the same as in most passenger tickets experienced by United States passengers when traveling on a foreign flagged cruise ship embarking from this country. The Athens Convention " sets out four choices of venue available to a claimant who wishes to bring action arising under the Convention, provided the court is located in a State Party to the Convention : (1) a court in the place of permanent residence or principal place of business of the defendant (e.g.carrier); (2) a court in the place of departure or destination;(3) a court in the State of domicile or permanent residence of claimant, provided the defendant(carrier) has a place of business and is subject to jurisdiction in that State; or (4) a court of the State where the contract of carriage was made, provided the claimant(carrier) has a place of business and is subject to jurisdiction in that State." This provision may be beneficial in Europe but probably would not be of great benefit to an American who booked a cruise in the United States, embarked and /or disembarked in American ports.
A provision in the Convention is the one that limits the liability of the cruise line and this is the one cropping up in some passenger tickets issued in the United States. Under Article 7 of the Convention for death or personal injury the Limits of Liability is 46,666 Special Drawing Rights (SDR) or about $58,137 U.S.. For cabin luggage the limit is 833 SDR less 13SDR deductible, This comes to about $1,029 U.S. In Great Britain, which has been a prime mover for this Convention, the courts have not always adhered to the liability limits in the Convention, awarding greater amounts. An attempt has been made to increase the death and personal injury limit to 175,000 SDR or about $218,000 U.S. It takes ten nations to consent to be bound by this increase but as of 2000 only three nations have consented(Croatia, Egypt and Spain).
For a copy of the Athens Convention and the Protocols you should write to the IMO. Address: International Maritime Organization, 4 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7SR. A one ounce letter takes an 80 cents stamp..