I wish to inform the House that the Government have opted in to the Council decision concerning the accession of the European Union to the protocol of 2002 to the Athens convention relating to the carriage of passengers and their luggage by sea, 1974, as regards articles 10 and 11 thereof. The UK notified its intention to the Council and to the Commission that it wishes to accept the measure soon after the Council decision was adopted at Transport Council on 12 December 2011.
The Council decision sets out the basis for the Union’s competence in respect of articles 10 and 11 of the 2002 protocol and authorises the Council to conclude the 2002 protocol on behalf of the EU. A separate Council decision relating to the other provisions of the 2002 protocol was adopted in parallel to this decision. The Union has exclusive competence as regards articles 10 and 11 of the 2002 protocol as it affects the jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters in the Union.
The UK has decided to opt in to this Council decision to ensure that it is in a position to ratify the 2002 protocol within the framework of the UN’s International Maritime Organisation, as soon as it is ready to do so. The UK must have opted in to the Council decision if the appropriate provisions on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments are to apply.
The UK strongly supports the entry into force of the 2002 protocol because it will significantly enhance the international regime of liability that exists for damage suffered as a result of the death of, or personal injury to, a passenger and the loss of or damage to luggage, by sea—established by the 1974 Athens convention. The 2002 protocol will require shipowners to maintain compulsory insurance up to approximately £250,000 per passenger per voyage to cover liability in respect of the death of and personal injury to passengers on board ships and significantly raise the limits of liability from approximately £46,000 to £400,000 per passenger on each distinct occasion. It will also introduce other mechanisms to assist passengers in obtaining compensation, based on well-accepted principles applied in existing liability and compensation regimes dealing with environmental pollution. These include replacing the fault-based liability system with a strict liability system for shipping-related incidents and introducing the right of direct action against the insurer.
The Union has already adopted EU Regulation 392/2009 on the liability of carriers of passengers by sea which incorporates the 2002 protocol into EU law and ensures the uniform application of the 2002 protocol in the EU from 31 December 2012. It is, however, important that the UK and other EU member states ratify, or accede to, the 2002 protocol to ensure that both instruments apply simultaneously within the EU as soon as possible. Such an approach will greatly simplify the application of Athens regime in the shipping industry.
A copy of this statement has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.