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The insurance of shipowners for maritime claims

This Directive establishes a legal framework applicable to the insurance of shipowners for maritime claims in order to make economic operators act more responsibly and to improve the quality of merchant shipping.


Directive 2009/20/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the insurance of shipowners for maritime claims.


This Directive creates a harmonised legal framework applicable to the insurance of shipowners for maritime claims.


This Directive applies to ships of 300 gross tonnage or more. Warships, auxiliary warships or other State owned or operated ships used for a non commercial public service are excluded from its scope.

Obligations on shipowners

Member States shall impose the following:

  • ships flying the flag of Member States shall be insured by their owners *;
  • ships not flying the flag of Member States are to be insured when they enter ports under Member States’ jurisdiction.

In compliance with international law, Member States may require that ships that are in transit through their territorial waters fulfil this obligation.

Insurance * shall cover claims which are subject to limitation pursuant to the 1996 convention * and shall provide cover up to the liability limitation thresholds laid down in that Convention.

Access to ports

Member States shall ensure that ships anchored in ports under their jurisdiction have a certificate of insurance. Without prejudice to the provisions of Directive 2009/16/EC allowing ships to be detained for safety reasons, this Directive allows the competent authority to make a decision regarding the expulsion of the ship. This decision shall be sent to the Commission and to the other Member States. Once the decision has been pronounced, the ship is prohibited from entering any port in the European Union (EU) until a certificate has been presented by its owner.

Insurance certificates

Insurance certificate(s) shall include the following information:

  • name of ship, its registration number and port of registry;
  • shipowner’s name and principal place of business;
  • type and duration of the insurance;
  • the address of the main insurance provider.

The text of the certificate shall be translated into English, French or Spanish if it has not been drawn up in any of these three languages.


Member States shall establish a system of effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties for the breach of national provisions laid down pursuant to this Directive.


This Directive forms part of the policy of the European Union and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to make economic operators act more responsibly and thus improve the quality of merchant shipping.

Key terms of the Act
  • "shipowner", the registered owner of a seagoing ship, or any other person such as the bareboat charterer who is responsible for the operation of the ship;
  • "insurance", insurance with or without deductibles, and comprising, for example, indemnity insurance of the type currently provided by members of the International Group of P & I Clubs, and other effective forms of insurance (including proved self insurance) and financial security offering similar conditions of cover;
  • "1996 Convention", the consolidated text of the 1976 Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), as amended by the 1996 Protocol.


ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 2009/20/EC



OJ L 131 of 28.5.2009

Last updated: 27.10.2009
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