The sea is a very different legal environment from dry land and those who suffer injury on board ships can face particular difficulties in winning compensation. However, in one case, a cruise ship passenger whose holiday was spoilt by a tripping accident discovered the benefits of obtaining specialist legal advice.
The passenger came to grief as he disembarked from the ship onto a tender which was to transport him to a Greek island. He was injured after tripping over a step on board the tender. He sued the cruise ship's owner, which was found liable under the Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea 1974.
In awarding the man £5,197 in compensation, the judge found that the step should have been marked with a warning notice or hazard tape. Members of the ship's crew should also have been deployed to assist passengers over the step or to warn them of the hazard.
Although the man had booked his voyage through travel agents, the judge ruled that he had a binding contractual relationship with the ship's owner. The tender was locally owned and operated, but the owner was liable as a contractual carrier within the meaning of the Convention. The facts of the case emerged after the owner was refused permission to challenge the judge's decision before the Court of Appeal.