EU Passengers Rights When Travelling by Sea and Inland Waterway

Maritime Passenger Rights during the COVID-19 Crisis

15/05/2020 Update

EU issues recommendation on Vouchers as an alternative to cash reimbursement during the Covid-19 pandemic

The European Commission has issued a recommendation on vouchers offered to passengers as an alternative to cash reimbursement for cancelled transport services in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.  The recommendation re-iterates the commission’s interpretative guidelines issued in March 2020 on cancelled travel during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Passengers who have had their journey cancelled are entitled to a full refund.  They must be offered a choice between a cash reimbursement or reimbursement in the form of vouchers.

For further information the full text of the interpretative guidelines and the Commission’s recommendation on vouchers please click here.


In the context of the developing situation the NTA offers the following advice to passengers.

If the operator cancels your journey:

The information available on the NTA Marine Passenger Rights web page continues to apply during the COVID-19 pandemic.  In brief, if an operator cancels your journey you are entitled to be informed of this at the earliest opportunity and you must be offered either a full reimbursement or a re-routing under Regulation (EU) No 1177 / 2010.  You are not obliged to accept vouchers.

In relation to compensation for delayed or cancelled journeys, the Regulation provides for exemptions in respect of compensation to passengers in what are termed “extraordinary circumstances”.  The EU Commission considers that, where public authorities take measures intended to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, such measures are outside the carriers’ control and are caused by such extraordinary circumstances.  Compensation will therefore not be payable by the carriers where their cancellation of a service is as a result of COVID-19.

If you cancel your journey:

The EU Regulations do not specifically address situations where passengers cannot travel and want to cancel a trip.  Whether you are reimbursed by the carrier depends on the ticket type you have with the carrier.

Some operators are offering vouchers to passengers, who do not want to (or are not authorised to) travel any more as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19. These vouchers can be used by passengers for another trip with the same carrier within a time frame established by the carrier.

We advise all passengers to check with the operator’s terms and conditions.

Will my travel insurance cover me in this COVID-19 situation?

This will depend on the type of policy you have purchased and the terms and conditions attached to that policy.  You should contact your insurance company or broker for assistance.

COVID-19 is an evolving situation and we will keep passengers updated on our website.  We also advise passengers to check with operators directly regarding their journeys.

The Council of the European Union and the European Parliament have created rights for passengers when travelling by sea and inland waterway through Regulation 1177/2010.

The regulation applies to passengers travelling on maritime services that:

  • Sail from an EU port;
  • Sail to an EU port from a port outside the EU, if the service is operated by an EU carrier; and
  • Cruises where the departure point is an EU port, although some exemptions apply in relation to rights on re-routing, reimbursement and compensation for delay in arrival.

The regulation does not apply to:

  • Ships that can carry a maximum of 12 passengers;
  • Ships that have no more than 3 crew members;
  • Ships that cover a distance of less than 500 metres – one way;
  • Most types of historical ships; and
  • Excursion and sightseeing tours.

Right to Information

(a) All passengers have the right to clear and appropriate information throughout their travel. This includes the right to be informed of their rights, the contact details of the national enforcement bodies and accessibility for a person(s) with a disability and/or reduced mobility.

(b) If a departure is cancelled or delayed, passengers have the right to be informed by the carrier or terminal operator within 30 minutes of the scheduled departure time. All passengers must be informed of the new estimated departure/arrival time as soon as it is available.

Right to Care and Assistance

(a) Where possible, passengers must be offered snacks, meals or refreshments, in proportion to the waiting time and free of charge, if there is a delay of more than 90 minutes or cancellation of a passenger service or cruise.

(b) If necessary and where possible the carrier must provide adequate accommodation on board or ashore, and transport to and from the port terminal to that accommodation.  Such accommodation is capped at €80 (per person) per night for a maximum of three nights.

(c) If the carrier can prove that the cancellation or delay is caused by weather conditions endangering the safe operation of the ship, they are not obliged to offer overnight accommodation.

Right to Re-routing and Reimbursement in Case of a Cancellation or Delay of Departure

If there is a delay of more than 90 minutes passengers have a right to choose between:

  • A refund of your ticket, and if applicable, a free return journey back to your original departure point;


  • Re-routing, under similar conditions, to your final destination at the earliest opportunity at no extra cost.

Right to Request Partial Compensation of the Ticket Price

Passengers who choose to continue with their journey, and face a delay in arrival at their final destination, may request compensation under the regulation.

(a) Passengers may request compensation of 25% of the ticket price for the affected part of the journey, where the delay in arrival exceeds:

Scheduled Journey Time Time Delayed (Greater Than)
Up to 4 hours  > 1 hour
More than 4 hours (not exceeding 8)  > 2 hours
More than 8 hours (not exceeding 24)  > 3 hours
More than 24 hours  > 6  hours

(b) If the delay is double the duration set out above passengers may request compensation of 50% of the ticket price.

(c) The carrier does not have to pay compensation if they prove the delay in arrival resulted from dangerous weather conditions or from extraordinary circumstances that prevents the safe operation of the service.

Rights of Disabled Passengers and Passengers with Reduced Mobility

(a) Right to access to transport for disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility without any discrimination:

  • Carriers/travel agents/tour operators cannot:
    • Refuse a booking;
    • Provide a ticket; or
    • Deny boarding on the grounds of their disability or reduced mobility.
    • They cannot ask the person to pay a higher cost for booking tickets.
  • If it’s not possible to carry the individual on board a ship for safety reasons, or it is not possible to safely get on or off due to the design of the ship, port and equipment, the carriers/travel agents/tour operators have to make all efforts to provide information on alternative forms of transport.
  • If the disabled person or person with reduced mobility is accompanied by a recognised assistance dog or carer, they must be accommodated on board the ship at no additional cost.
  • The access conditions shall be made publicly available by carriers and terminal operators physically (signage) and on the internet in accessible formats on request.

(b) Right to special assistance

  • Disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility have the right to assistance, free of charge, getting on or off a ship, changing ships, on board and at the port.
  • The individual should notify the carrier or terminal operator of their needs at least 48 hours in advance and must arrive at the agreed time to the designated point ahead of the published departing time.
  • If 48 hours advance notice has not been given the carrier and terminal operator still has to make all reasonable efforts to help you to board, disembark and travel on a ship.

(c) Right to compensation for loss of or damage to mobility equipment

  • If damaged or lost the carrier or terminal has to pay compensation corresponding to the replacement value of the equipment concerned or, if possible, the costs relating to the repairs. This is only if the fault lies with the carrier/terminal.

Right to Submit Complaints to the Carriers and National Enforcement Bodies (NEBS)

(a) Passengers may submit complaints to the carriers or terminal operators within two months from the date the service was operated, or when it should be have been operated.

(b) The carrier/terminal operator must have a complaint handling system in place. The passenger must be notified within one month of receipt of the complaint. A final reply must be provided within two months of receipt of the complaint.

(c) Passengers may submit complaints about alleged infringements of Regulation (EU) No 1177/2010 to national enforcement bodies.

Enforcement of Passenger Rights by NEBs and Comparable Mechanisms

Within Member States the designated national enforcement body (National Transport Authority in Ireland) shall enforce the rights and obligations set out in Regulation (EU) No 1177/2010.

Passenger Rights Complaint Form

To ensure efficient consideration of complaints referred to the NTA, it is advisable to complete the online complaint form, attaching a copy of all correspondence between you and the operator.

You should keep the originals of all correspondence forwarded.

Useful Links

Your Europe – Ship Passenger Rights