Had your ferry booking cancelled or delayed? Take a look at this FREE handy guide to claiming compensation under EU Rules. You could be entitled to a partial refund, free food or refreshments, or even accommodation costs! While the creation of this page was prompted by disruption to Irish Ferries services resulting from the late delivery of W.B YEATS, the rules on ferry disruption apply to all ferry operators Europe-wide as they form articles 16 to 21 of EU Legislation (Regulation (EU) No 1177/2010). Although the UK left the EU during 2020 (Brexit), these rules still apply during the transition period until at least 2021. This page is an attempt to answer the most common queries.
While many people are aware of their right to claim compensation for cancelled or delayed flights, less realise that there are similar rules for ferry journeys as well. As you will see later down this article, your right to claim compensation for delays not caused by severe weather which would endanger the vessel is even stated in the terms and conditions of the major ferry operators. The EU provide a summary of your rights under legislation here: https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/passenger-rights/ship/index_en.htm.
The NI Consumer Council have produced a leaflet called Plain Sailing about delays and cancellations to ferry services. This is available to download here: http://www.consumercouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/original/Plain_Sailing.pdf. For passengers affected by COVID-19 Coronavirus, moneysavingexpert has a dedicated page here, though this is geared more towards airline and package holiday travel.
The content of this page should only be used as a guide to finding further information on what your rights are. NI Ferry Site is not a legal advice site, nor is the author of this article qualified to dispense legal advice. Links to consumer organisations who can provide qualified advice in the UK and Ireland and may be able to assist in any claim are listed towards the bottom of this page.
My sailing has been delayed or cancelled – am I entitled to compensation?
This depends on the reason for the cancellation. Passengers are not entitled to compensation due to delays caused by severe weather conditions or natural disasters for example. According to the NI Consumer Council:
“The ferry company is not required to provide compensation if it proves the delay is caused by weather conditions which endanger the safe operation of the vessel or by extraordinary circumstances.
Extraordinary circumstances could include, for example, natural disasters, strikes, search and rescue operations and decisions taken by traffic management bodies or port authorities.
Certain technical problems could also be considered extraordinary circumstances.”
If your sailing is delayed for reasons other than those stated above, you could be entitled to compensation. Even in the case of sailings being delayed as a result of technical problems, passengers have in the past received compensation of up to 50% (external link, in French) of the price of the crossing and even up to €80 per night for accommodation costs. It is however the responsibility of the passenger to claim compensation and not usually something that will automatically be given to you. You are not however entitled to assistance or compensation if you are informed of the cancellation or delay before the purchase of the ticket or if the cancellation or delay is caused as a result of your own actions.
What compensation could I be entitled to?
Again, we will use the NI Consumer Council as our source of information, however the same rules apply across all EU countries:
You are entitled to compensation equal to 25 per cent of the ticket price if you are delayed for at least:
- 1 hour for a journey scheduled to last up to four hours;
- 2 hours for a journey scheduled to last between four and eight hours;
- 3 hours for a journey scheduled to last between eight and 24 hours; or
- 6 hours for a journey scheduled to last more than 24 hours If the delay exceeds double the times set out above, the compensation will be 50% of the ticket price.
If you are travelling on a return ticket the compensation will be calculated based on the price of the disrupted leg. If the price of the ticket is not broken down for the outbound and return legs, the compensation will be calculated based on half of the total ticket price.
The ferry company must pay the compensation within one month of your application for compensation. The compensation must be paid in money if you request this, otherwise the compensation may be paid in vouchers for future travel provided the conditions are flexible regarding the period of validity and the destination.
If the amount of compensation due is less than €6, the ferry company is not required to pay the compensation.”
The relevant part of the EU regulation here is article 19. In article 20 (exemptions) the legislation says the following:
“Article 19 shall not apply where the carrier proves that the cancellation or delay is caused by weather conditions endangering the safe operation of the ship or by extraordinary circumstances hindering the performance of the passenger service which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.”
Irish Ferries (like other ferry operators) own terms and conditions as displayed on their website also cover compensation:
“27. Unless any cancellation or delay is caused by weather conditions endangering the safe operation of the ship, passengers without losing the right to transport may request compensation from the Carrier if facing a delay in arrival at the final destination. The minimum level of compensation shall be 25% of the ticket price paid for a delay of a least: (i) one hour in case of a scheduled journey of up to four hours; (ii) two hours in case of a scheduled journey of more than four hours, but not exceeding 8 hours; (iii) three hours in case of a scheduled journey of more than eight hours, but not exceeding 24 hours; or (iv) six hours in case of a scheduled journey of more than 24 hours. If the delay exceeds double the time set out above the compensation shall be 50% of the ticket price.”
I need to book additional accommodation because of the changes to my sailing, am I entitled to help with the cost of this?
According to the NI Consumer Council, you may be. They say:
“If your sailing is cancelled or delayed and an overnight stay becomes necessary, the ferry company must provide accommodation free of charge where this is possible. Accommodation can be either on board the ferry or ashore and transport between the port terminal and place of accommodation must also be provided.
The ferry company is permitted to limit the total cost of accommodation ashore to €80 per passenger per night and accommodation is limited to three nights.
The €80 limit does not include the cost of transport to and from the place of accommodation.
The ferry company is not required to provide accommodation if it proves the cancellation or delay is caused by weather conditions which endanger the safe operation of the vessel. “
The full text of the applicable article in EU legislation is reproduced in the answer to the next question
What about meals, can I get help with the cost of additional food?
Article 17 of the EU regulation states:
“1. Where a carrier reasonably expects the departure of a passenger service or a cruise to be cancelled or delayed for more than 90 minutes beyond its scheduled time of departure, passengers departing from port terminals shall be offered free of charge snacks, meals or refreshments in reasonable relation to the waiting time, provided they are available or can reasonably be supplied
2. In the case of a cancellation or a delay in departure where a stay of one or more nights or a stay additional to that intended by the passenger becomes necessary, where and when physically possible, the carrier shall offer passengers departing from port terminals, free of charge, adequate accommodation on board, or ashore, and transport to and from the port terminal and place of accommodation in addition to the snacks, meals or refreshments provided for in paragraph 1. For each passenger, the carrier may limit the total cost of accommodation ashore, not including transport to and from the port terminal and place of accommodation, to EUR 80 per night, for a maximum of three nights.
3. In applying paragraphs 1 and 2, the carrier shall pay particular attention to the needs of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility and any accompanying persons.”
Who do I complain to if I feel I haven’t received what I am entitled to?
If you wish to make a complaint concerning a delay or cancellation you must submit the complaint to the ferry company within two months of the date you experienced the disruption. The ferry company must respond to you within one month of receiving your complaint to explain whether your complaint has been accepted, rejected or is still being considered. You should receive a final reply no later than two months from the date the ferry company received your complaint.
If you are unsatisfied with the response from the ferry company you should contact the Consumer Council if the ferry service operates to, within, or from Northern Ireland. For services operating to, within, or from the Republic of Ireland you should contact the National Transport Authority (NTA).
Generally speaking it appears that other ferry operators who have experienced similar issues have paid the compensation and expenses outlined and it is likely Irish Ferries will face legal challenges if they don’t follow this course of action. The Irish National Transport Authority have already stated that they are looking into this option on behalf of a number of people affected by Irish Ferries W.B. YEATS cancellations. The standard advice seems to be to make a formal claim to the ferry operator quoting EU Passenger Rights and then deal with a refusal via the appeal channels. The NI Consumer Council provide a template letter for making a complaint which you can download from their website here:
If you have already received a response from the ferry company and want to lodge a complaint with the relevant authority, these are their contact details. You should always submit a complaint to the ferry company themselves as detailed above before contacting any of these bodies.
NI Consumer Council (Northern Ireland)
E-mail: [email protected]
Tel: +44 (0) 800 121 6022
Irish National Transport Authority (Republic of Ireland)
E-mail: [email protected]
Tel: +353 1 879 8300
Maritime and Coastguard Agency (United Kingdom)
E-mail: [email protected]
Tel: + 44 (0)2380 329 315
Where can I get additional information?
The full text of EU Regulation (EU) No 1177/2010 can be viewed here:
The Irish Department of Transport, Tourism, and sport have produced a guide to Maritime Passenger Rights which is available to download here:
The Irish National Transport Authority (NTA) have a page specifically about the cancellation of W.B. YEATS sailings here:
The NI Consumer council also have this specific page for those affected by the cancellation of W.B. YEATS sailings
The NI Consumer Council have produced a leaflet called Plain Sailing about delays and cancellations to ferry services, which is available to download here: http://www.consumercouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/original/Plain_Sailing.pdf
Which? (UK Consumer Council) guide to ferry delays and cancellations:
ABTA guide to ferry cancellations:
Ferry company policies
All of the major ferry companies have publicly viewable policies relating to delayed or cancelled sailings as part of their terms and conditions. I have linked to the most popular ones here.
Stena Line policy on cancelled or delayed sailings (see section 6):
P&O Ferries policy on cancelled or delayed sailings (see section 6 and 7):
Irish Ferries policy on delayed or cancelled sailings:
Ferry Company Websites
P&O Ferries: http://www.poferries.com
Irish Ferries: https://www.irishferries.com