Legal Committee

It will be seen that the main principle of the Athens Convention is that the damage (with certain exceptions) must be proved as due to the carrier’s fault or negligence which is a far cry from the doctrine of total (strict) liability with or without fault which prevails in some jurisdictions. This situation is far from popular in some quarters as is evidenced by a recent report published by the British Maritime Law Association, originating from the CMI and presented by its then President , Patrick Griggs in April 2001, it reads as follows: On December 13th 1974 at an International Diplomatic Conference held in Athens the final text was agreed for a Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea (the Athens Convention for short) The Convention came into force in April 1987. At the 74th Session of the IMO Legal Committee held in October 1996 a paper was submitted by the UK Government proposing that owners of all ships should carry third party liability insurance against all types of claim which might arise out of the operation of a ship.  By the time of the 76th Session of the Legal Committee in October 1997 it had become clear that it would not be possible to impose the proposed compulsory insurance requirement unless there was also a well-established liability regime.  In other words a shipowner cannot be required to carry liability insurance unless it is possible to identify what those liabilities are. At that stage the Legal Committee scaled down its ambitions and decided to work towards an instrument which would require the owners of passenger-carrying vessels to carry third party liability insurance so as to ensure that the claims of innocent passengers would be adequately secured and paid.  It was further proposed that passengers should be able to pursue their claims directly against the liability insurer.  A third element of the proposal was that the limits of liability contained in the 1974 Athens Convention should be substantially increased bearing in mind the fact that limits which might have been adequate in 1974 will no longer adequate in the late 1990’s.