The commitments of the European Union (EU) in the area of passenger transport by boat seek to ensure a high level of protection for passengers travelling by sea or by inland waterways.
All disabled persons or persons with reduced mobility are covered by this legislation.
Common rules are in effect as regards the compensation of passengers travelling by boat in the event of cancellation or significant delay, injury or death, or loss of baggage.
At the same time, there are also certain rules and a specific protection of consumers with respect to package holidays and assisted travel arrangements.
Who is concerned
Any boat passenger travelling by sea or inland waterways may exert their rights if they are:
- using passenger transport services, when the port of embarkation is located in an EU Member State;
- using passenger transport services, and:
- the port of embarkation is located outside an EU Member State;
- the port of disembarkation is located in an EU Member State;
- the service is operated by an EU transport operator;
- on a cruise, when the port of embarkation is located on EU territory.
To be considered as a cruise passenger, travellers must:
- use a sea- or inland-waterway transport service, operated solely for pleasure or leisure purposes;
- complete with accommodation and other services, with more than 2 nights spent on board.
This does not apply to passengers on vessels that:
- can carry a maximum of 12 passengers;
- have no more than 3 crew members;
- cover a distance of less than 500 metres for a one-way trip;
- are vintage vessels (originals or copies designed before 1965), authorised to transport up to 36 passengers;
- are not mechanically powered;
- are used for excursions and tourism purposes, other than cruises.
In Luxembourg, day trips on the Moselle and transport by car ferry, covering a distance of less than 500m, are therefore not covered by the legislation on protection of sea- or inland waterway passengers.
In the event of the death of a passenger during transport by sea, all possible beneficiaries of the deceased passenger can exercise their rights to compensation.
The passenger must be in possession of:
- a non-open-ended ticket, i.e. one specifying the departure time; or
- a transport card/season ticket for a regular service.
Deadlines regarding the different types of boat voyages
If the passenger feels their rights have been violated, they can submit a claim to the transport operator within 2 months of the incident. The transport operator then has:
- one month to respond, either accepting or rejecting the claim;
- 2 months from receipt of the claim to give their final response to the passenger.
Deadlines for inland waterway travel
A victim who has not obtained a satisfactory response to a claim lodged with a transport operator, tour operator, travel agent or terminal operator can submit their complaint to the Verkéiersverbond within 3 months of receiving the response deemed unsatisfactory.
The Verkéiersverbond then has a maximum of 3 months from the date of receipt of the complaint to communicate its decision to the organisation against which the complaint is being brought, and to the plaintiff.
Deadlines for sea travel
In the event of damage to cabin bags through fault or negligence on the part of the transport operator, the passenger must inform the transport operator of such damage before disembarking.
With regard to all other baggage, the passenger must inform the transport operator:
- upon delivery of the bags or;
- no later than 15 days after disembarkation or delivery of the baggage, if the damage is not immediately apparent.
If baggage is lost, the time limit for submitting a written claim for such loss to the transport operator is 15 days from the date on which the baggage should have been delivered.
In case of injury or death of a passenger travelling by sea, the passenger or their beneficiaries must lodge a claim with a court of law within 2 years of the incident.
How to proceed
Non-discrimination and duty to assist passengers
Prohibition of any form of discrimination towards passengers
No passenger may be discriminated against by a transport operator, either:
- when buying their ticket;
- during their journey.
No passenger may be discriminated against on the basis of:
- their nationality;
- their disability or
- their reduced mobility.
Likewise, the carer of a disabled person may not be subjected to any discriminatory action on the part of a transport operator.
The passenger in question can lodge a claim with the Verkéiersverbond should the transport operator fail to fulfil their obligations.
Obligation to provide information to disabled people before the trip
Disabled people are entitled to have transport operators and operators of port terminals provide them with any and all relevant information, in appropriate and accessible formats, including when making bookings and when information is provided online. "Relevant information" includes:
- the conditions of transport;
- route information;
- conditions of access provided for disabled people and people with reduced mobility.
Guidance must be available, both inside or outside port terminals, to direct disabled people and people with reduced mobility to a place where they can make their arrival known and seek help.
Obligation to assist disabled people
Disabled passengers or those with reduced mobility are entitled to free assistance from the transport operator and the operator of the port terminals, both at embarkation and disembarkation, and on board the vessel.
Disabled passengers or those with reduced mobility must inform the transport operator, travel agent or tour operator of their assistance requirements. The person in question must be able to obtain a response to their request for assistance at any of the transport operator's points of sale, including in cases of telephone or online sales.
The passenger must receive confirmation of their assistance by any medium, such as SMS or email.
Passengers requiring assistance must give prior notice of their requirements (particular needs and services required) at least 48 hours in advance, unless a shorter time frame has been agreed upon by the transport operator and the traveller. The passenger must then arrive at the port a certain amount of time prior to embarkation, in a place determined by the transport operator or the port operator:
- either at a time determined in writing by the transport operator, which may not precede the specified time of embarkation by more than 60 minutes;
- or, if no time has been set, at least 60 minutes before the scheduled departure time, unless a shorter time frame was agreed upon.
Even if the passenger has failed to inform the transport operator of their assistance requirements, the operator must still attempt to provide the traveller with assistance to embark, disembark and travel on board the vessel.
Denial of boarding to a disabled person
A person who is disabled or has reduced mobility may not be denied boarding on account of their disability, unless:
- specific international legal requirements necessitate it;
- specific security measures are required by the competent authorities, or;
- the design of the boat or the port infrastructure would make it impossible for them to safely embark/disembark or travel.
In that case, the transport operator must offer the passenger an acceptable alternative means of transport.
If a disabled person or a person with reduced mobility is unable to board despite having disclosed to the transport operator, travel agent or tour operator, at the time of booking, their disability, their specific needs and the services they require, they and their carer are entitled to one of the following:
- either a refund or;
- alternative transportation.
If the disabled passenger or passenger with reduced mobility is accompanied by a recognised assistance dog, the dog must be allowed on board.
Cancellation or delay
In case of delay or cancellation, passengers must be informed of:
- the situation at most 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time;
- the estimated time of departure and the estimated time of arrival.
If, due to a delay or cancellation, the passenger misses a connecting journey, the transport operator or terminal operator must inform them of other available connections.
People with a physical or mental disability, and people with reduced mobility, are entitled to special attention on the part of the transport operator and/or the port operator as regards their specific needs in order to access the essential information about any delays or cancellations.
Conditions of compensation
If the transport operator reasonably expects that the trip will be delayed by more than 90 minutes, or cancelled, passengers must be given a choice between:
- being rerouted free of charge to the final destination, under conditions comparable to those of the initial voyage and as quickly as possible or;
- being reimbursed for the price of the ticket and, if necessary, being provided with free transport to the initial point of departure as quickly as possible.
The passenger must be offered the same choice regardless of whether the trip is actually cancelled, or if it is delayed by more than 90 minutes.
The passenger must be reimbursed in full by the transport operator within 7 days, in cash, by wire, by banker's draft or cheque or, if the passenger agrees and if the conditions are flexible, in the form of vouchers for:
- the unused segment(s) of the trip;
- the completed segment(s) of the trip, if the trip is no longer relevant given the initial travel plan.
Passengers arriving at their destination late are entitled to compensation.
This compensation is equivalent to 25% of the ticket price in the event of a delay of at least:
- 1 hour, for a trip lasting up to 4 hours;
- 2 hours, for a trip lasting between 4 and 8 hours;
- 3 hours, for a trip lasting between 8 and 24 hours;
- 6 hours, for a trip lasting more than 24 hours.
This compensation is equivalent to 50% of the ticket price in the event of a delay of at least:
- 2 hours, for a trip lasting up to 4 hours;
- 4 hours, for a trip lasting between 4 and 8 hours;
- 6 hours, for a trip lasting between 8 and 24 hours;
- 12 hours, for a trip lasting more than 24 hours.
If the trip is a round trip, half of the price paid is taken into account for the calculation of the compensation for delayed arrival, on either leg of the trip.
The compensation is paid in the month following the application for compensation, in cash or vouchers (if the conditions are flexible, particularly as regards duration of validity and destination). The compensation can be paid in cash at the passenger's request.
Transport operators may set a minimum threshold below which no compensation is paid, but this threshold may not be higher than EUR 6.
Passengers cannot claim compensation if the delay is caused by a natural disaster or extreme weather conditions compromising the safety of the vessel.
Passengers are not entitled to compensation if they have an open-ended ticket (departure time not stated) or if they had been informed of the delay or cancellation before purchasing their ticket.
Passengers may not claim compensation if the delay or cancellation is a result of their own action.
In case of a delay of over 90 minutes or a cancellation, passengers are entitled to be provided with snacks, meals or refreshments commensurate with the length of the delay.
If the trip is cancelled or the departure delayed, passengers are entitled, if necessary, to:
- a stay of one or more nights;
- an additional stay on board or ashore over and beyond the stay initially scheduled, if needed, and if it is materially possible; or
- transport between the port terminal and the place of accommodation.
Accommodation ashore is limited to EUR 80 per person per night, for up to 3 nights.
Passengers are not entitled to assistance from the transport operator if they are informed of the cancellation of their trip, or its delay, prior to purchasing their tickets, or if the cancellation or delay is the passenger's fault. Similarly, passengers may not claim obligatory accommodation if the cancellation or delay is due to weather conditions that would compromise the safe operation of the vessel.
Obligation to provide information during the trip
Throughout their journey, passengers must be provided with adequate information in formats that are accessible to everyone, and in the same languages as those in which information is generally provided to all passengers.
Passengers must be informed of their rights on board the vessels, or in the ports and port terminals. Where possible, such information must be provided in accessible formats and in the same languages as those generally used for all passengers.
People with a physical or mental disability and people with reduced mobility are entitled to special attention on the part of the transport operator and/or the port operator as regards their specific requirements in terms of accessing the essential information concerning the progress of the journey.
Obligation to provide assistance to disabled people during the journey
Disabled people and people with reduced mobility are entitled to assistance from the passenger transport operator and the port operator to:
- signal their arrival at a port terminal or in a port and their request for assistance for disembarkation at the port of arrival;
- help them to get around in order to check in, check in their bags, board the vessel and then disembark, and retrieve their luggage at the end of the journey;
- if necessary, provide assistance in order to help them go to the toilet.
Disabled people and people with reduced mobility must be able to expect that transport- and port-operator staff will be sensitive to their disability, in particular as regards:
- their awareness of the material and organisational obstacles encountered by disabled people and people with reduced mobility;
- the recognition of the role of assistance dogs;
- methods of communication with the deaf and hard of hearing, the blind and partially sighted, and people with speech and learning disorders.
Passengers are entitled to lodge a complaint with the Verkéiersverbond for discriminatory behaviour if the transport operator fails to fulfil their obligations.
Material loss or damage at sea
Loss of or damage to baggage, vehicles or other personal effects at sea
Passengers must be compensated by the transport operator in the event of loss of or damage to baggage, vehicles or other personal effects, when such loss or damage occurs as a result of:
- an accident at sea, or;
- negligence or fault on the part of the transport operator.
In the event of damage to luggage through the fault or negligence of the transport operator, passengers must inform the transport operator in writing:
- before leaving the vessel, if cabin luggage is concerned;
- upon delivery of the luggage, if any other luggage is concerned.
Passengers have 15 days from disembarkation or delivery of the luggage to inform the transport operator in writing, if the damage is not immediately apparent.
Beyond this 15-day period, passengers may no longer claim compensation.
If baggage is lost, the time limit for giving the transport operator written notice of the loss is 15 days from the date on which the baggage should have been delivered.
Passengers will not be compensated by the transport operator for losses of or damage to cash, negotiable securities, gold, silver, jewellery, gems, works or art and other valuable items, unless the transport operator has agreed to keep such items safe.
Loss and damage of mobility equipment
A disabled person or person with reduced mobility who suffers damage to or loss of their mobility equipment, or any other specific equipment, is entitled to compensation from the transport operator in an amount commensurate with the value of the equipment or the cost of its repair.
Where possible, such passengers should be promptly provided with temporary replacement mobility equipment.
The passenger will only be compensated if the damage occurs as the result of negligence or fault on the part of the transport operator or terminal operator.
Bodily harm or death during transport
Any passenger who suffers injuries due to an accident at sea is entitled to compensation from the transport operator or the latter's insurer. In the event of death, such compensation will be collected by the passenger's beneficiaries.
The following are considered to be accidents at sea:
- explosions or on-board fires;
- defects in the vessel;
Passengers are entitled to receive a partial payment from the transport operator to cover immediate needs in the event of injury or death.
If the passenger's death or injury occurs as a result of an exceptional, unavoidable and unforeseeable force majeure event, or as a result of the deliberate action of a third party, or an act of war, the transport operator may not be held liable.
If a passenger's death or injuries are not the result of an accident at sea, but due instead to the negligence or fault of the transport operator, the transport operator may be held liable.
The passenger's compensation will be nullified or partly reduced if the transport operator can prove that the bodily injury or death occurred as a result of the passenger's own negligence or fault.
Lodging a complaint
If a passenger believes their rights have been violated, they may lodge a claim with:
- the transporter;
- the tour operator;
- the travel agent, or
- the port terminal operator.
Passengers who are not satisfied with the response to their claim with the transport operator, tour operator, travel agent or port terminal operator can file a complaint with the Verkéiersverbond.
The Verkéiersverbond is the competent authority for complaints concerning:
- passenger transport services and inland-waterway cruises departing from ports in Luxembourg;
- passenger transport services from countries outside the European Union and arriving at a port in Luxembourg.
- be filed in writing;
- be signed by the plaintiff;
- specify the facts of which the transport operator, tour operator, travel agent or terminal operator stands accused.
The victim must send their complaint by registered letter within 3 months of the incident or of receipt of an unsatisfactory response to their claim against the transport operator.
The Verkéiersverbond has a maximum of 3 months from the date of receipt of the complaint to communicate its decision to the organisation against which the complaint is being brought, and to the plaintiff. The Verkéiersverbond can impose administrative sanctions on the organisation which violated the passengers' rights.
Passengers may also claim compensation through a Luxembourg court within 2 years of the incident for any loss or damage suffered as a result of an accident occurring on an inland waterway in Luxembourg.
It should be noted that as Luxembourg has no sea ports in its territory, there is no designated authority to deal with complaints regarding the transport of passengers by sea.
For any loss or damage suffered in an accident at sea or on the inland waterways of another country, passengers may, within 2 years of the incident, claim compensation through a court in the country where:
- the transport operator has their head office or usual residence;
- the place of departure or destination of the trip is located;
- they usually reside, as long as the transport operator conducts business there and is subject to its jurisdiction;
- the travel contract was entered into, provided that the transport operator conducts business there and is subject to its jurisdiction.