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Euro Trip: Cruising under the Athens Convention

Città_di_Rodi_08This summer’s cruise season is now in full swing. Many are taking advantage of the low euro conversion rates to cruise in and around Europe. All the major cruise lines have ships in the Mediterranean , the British Isles, Scandinavia, Russia and the Baltic States. The cruise industry continues to build more and bigger ships, while deploying old and even newly renovated ships to foreign destinations (see, for example, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Ovation Of The Seas, China deployment) . Many US passengers are not aware of severe restrictions on their rights to collect damages for serious injuries and death resulting from cruise ship incidents and accidents.
Among the harshest maritime laws is the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), which severely limits surviving family members right to collect damages for a death occurring more than 9 nautical miles from US territorial waters. (See 46 U.S.C. 761, et seq).

Another harsh maritime law is the cap on damages imposed on passengers traveling outside the United States under “The Athens Convention.” Originally the damages for injury or death under this convention was limited to $46,666.00, special drawing rights (SDR’s) , which by 2002, amendment was raised to $250,000.00 SDR’s, and under some circumstances can be increased to $400,000 SDR’s. SDR’s are a monetary calculation which fluctuates daily with the market; page conversion rate can be seen here: For example, at today’s rates $250,000.00 SDR’s are approximately $348,000.00, while $400,000.00 SDR’s are valued at approximately $557,000.00. Therefore, when a passenger endures a catastrophic injury there is barely enough coverage to help pay for future medical expenses, without considering additional damages of: wage losses, mental anguish, pain, and suffering.

If you are injured on European or other foreign cruise, that does not have destination to any US ports, then these limits apply to your injury. The current status of the increased limits is still in question because the United States is not a signatory to the new amendments. However, a majority of signatory countries have approved the higher limits, giving rise to significant issues of international maritime law.

When hiring an attorney for your claim, make sure to choose one with experience in dealing with these and other complex issues.


Call (305-668-6410) or email Holzberg Legal ( today discuss your case.

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