Pavlakis – Moschos & Associates have a long established practice in representing seamen, whole crews and bereaved families in their rights from personal injury or death accidents on board ships or related to their sea employment.

We are one of the leading Piraeus firms in this field.

The seamens’ and their families’ rights are pursued and defended by our experienced lawyers before Greek Courts or in foreign jurisdictions that prove to be  more convenient and beneficial for the claimants.

The handling of such claims requires specialized knowledge and experience. Legislation is very specific, the cases are usually tried by specialized Maritime Courts, the rules and regulations applicable are to a great extent those of international maritime bodies and organizations, whereas the defendant ship-owners, shipping managers, insurers, P & I Clubs, and classification societies are mostly multi-national.

The Case of Foreign Seafarers Serving Onboard Foreign Flagged Ships connected with Greece

The prosecution of personal injury claims of foreign seamen serving onboard foreign flagged ships is of particular interest to our firm.

Following the application by Greek Courts of the Council Regulation (EC) 44/2001 on Jurisdiction and the Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters (Brussels Convention), as amended by the Recast Regulation 1215/2012, Greek Courts may assume jurisdiction over claims of foreign seamen who have suffered an accident on board a non-Greek flagged and/or not Greek owned ship, even in case where the seaman served under an employment contract containing a clause for exclusive jurisdiction of a non-Greek Court, provided that a link is established between the shipowners and / or ship and Greece.

It is thus possible to successfully pursue in Greek Courts a claim for injury of a Ukrainian seaman, who suffered an accident while serving on board a Panama flagged vessel, although his employment contract provides for exclusive jurisdiction of Ukrainian Courts or for arbitration, as long as it can be established that the ship / shipowners / managers had their actual place of business in Greece.

The application and interpretation by Greek Maritime Courts of the Council Regulation (EC) 593/2008 (Rome I) on the Applicable Law in Contractual Obligations, in most cases allows the application of the Greek law on Workmen’s Compensation to foreign seamen’s employment contracts, even if another law has been agreed in their employment contracts.

Ship Arrest

In the context of successfully pursuing seamen’s claims and in order to secure the claim or to enforce a final judgment, an effective measure worth trying in many cases will be the arrest of the liable ship or of an associated ship, in Greece or in a suitable forum all over the world in collaboration with foreign local lawyers.

Illustrative Cases

An AB of Egyptian nationality serving onboard the Cyprus flagged passenger / Ro-Ro vessel R.I, of Greek interests, performing voyages between Italy and Albania suffered a serious leg fracture as a result of a fall in the course of his employment. A lawsuit was filed in the Courts of Piraeus and the seaman received compensation for his injury, moral damages, as well as sick pay, as it was proven that the fall and the respective injury had been the result of lack of safety measures onboard the vessel.

In the evening August 9, 2012 an acetylene cylinder exploded on board the Panama flagged bulk carrier T.S., docked in Paranagua port, Brazil, during welding works. A Filipino seaman working onboard the vessel suffered fatal injuries as a result of the explosion. The family of the deceased seaman pursued their claim for compensation against the in the Courts of Piraeus which assumed jurisdiction on the basis of the greek interests in the ship’s ownership and operation, for economic and no – economic (moral) damages, on the basis that there was a breach of safety regulation onboard the vessel, and the case was settled out of court in 2014.

The 3rd engineer of the Marshall Islands flagged bulk carrier A. G.O. was attacked and assassinated by the oiler of the vessel. Our office represented the family of the deceased before the Piraeus Courts. The First instance court ruled that the death constituted a compensatable labor accident, despite the fact that the death was the result of the seamen’ personal disputes. The reasoning of the judgment was that the omission of the seafarers’ superior officers, who had been aware of their enmity and of the killer’s violent disposition, to ensure, by taking necessary measures, that the victim would be safe onboard at all times, was inadequate performance of their duties and made the ship owners liable to compensate the victim’s beneficiaries. The case is under appeal.

Our office has successfully represented the dependent family of a seafarer who suffered heat stroke during his work onboard the vessel while in the Middle East due to the abnormal high temperatures in the area where the ship berthed. The seaman was not relieved from duty despite the heat, which was held by the court to constitute violation of the employers’ duties to provide a safe and healthy working environment and awarded the family of the deceased compensation. The Court ruled that any deterioration of the health condition of the seaman or death, attributable wholly or partially to the working conditions or the failure of the employer and the officers of a ship to take all necessary measures for the avoidance of aggregation of the health condition, is to be considered as a work related accident.

On January 21, 2011 ten pirates in a fast boat attacked and boarded the St. Vincent & Grenadines general cargo ship P. at anchor in Nigeria. During the piracy incident an Egyptian seaman serving onboard the vessel was seriously injured being shot to his legs. A compensation lawsuit was filed with the Courts of Piraeus on behalf of the seaman against the ship-owners and ship managers and before trial a detention interim order and a conservative arrest of the vessel were ordered by the Court to secure the claim. The vessel was detained in Piraeus and subsequently the case was settled on its merits out of court.

Our firm represented the families of ten Syrian crew members who lost their lives in the sinking of the general cargo ship K. I after collision on November 29, 2010 in the Black Sea with the Dutch flagged chemical tanker A. DP. The dutch ship was arrested in Rotterdam, Netherlands and security was provided for the beneficiary families’ claims. Claims for compensation were filed on behalf of the families of the deceased crew members of K. I in Court and the case was settled out of court.

A fisherman of Egyptian nationality, working on board the Greek flagged fishing vessel K.L., fell into the sea whilst throwing the nets and subsequently drowned. The widow, children, siblings and mother of the deceased fisherman received compensation after judicial prosecution of the case, as it was effectively proved before the Court that the captain of the fishing vessel had not taken all necessary safety measures for the protection of the fishermen from such accidents and that he failed to take the necessary steps to rescue the fisherman immediately after he fall into the sea.

A seaman of Egyptian nationality serving onboard the St. Vincent & Grenadines general cargo ship V. died as a result of heart attack in the course of his service. A compensation lawsuit was filed on behalf of the seaman’s relatives against the ship owners and managers on the basis that, although the seaman was suffering from chest and heart pain for days, his superiors did not provide any medical assistance, but to the contrary ordered him to continue working. Before trial an application for conservative measures against the vessel and the ship owning and ship managing companies was filed for security of the claim, and subsequently the case was satisfactorily settled on its merits out of court.

A Filipino seaman serving onboard the Greek flagged crude oil tanker A.M. fell into the sea under unspecified circumstances and subsequently died due to drowning. A lawsuit was filed on behalf of the relatives of the deceased seaman before the Piraeus Court of First Instance, and the family was awarded compensation according to Greek law on strict liability for injury or death in the course of employment, whilst the defendants’ argument that the seaman committed suicide was overruled.

On December 25, 2009, whilst the Greek flagged bulk carrier A.W., with a load of steel, was en route from Salvador, Brazil to a seaport in Texas and was sailing approximately 90 miles north of the Venezuelan coast, there was an explosion in the dining area and fire spread over the ship in a few minutes. As a result of the explosion and the fire nine crew members lost their lives. Our office represented the families of 6 crew members who were fatally injured during the accident. A lawsuit was filed in the Courts of Piraeus on behalf of the families of the deceased for the award of moral damages and loss of maintenance. The case was successfully settled out of Court.

A seaman serving on board the St. Vincent & Grenadines general cargo vessel S.R. was infected by malaria and subsequently died. The widow, minor children and parents of the deceased seaman were awarded compensation for the death of their relative, as it was proven that there was an unjustified delay by the ship-owners, managers and vessel officers in providing adequate medical care to the seaman and failure on their part to take care of his immediate transportation to a hospital.

A Filipino seaman serving onboard the Greek flagged chemical tanker N. died as a result of an explosion in the course of welding works onboard the vessel. A lawsuit was filed with the Courts of Piraeus on behalf of the family of the deceased based on the breach of safety regulations on the part of the ship’s responsible officers during the welding works and the case was settled out of court with the payment of compensation to the widow, minor children and siblings of the deceased seaman.

The chief officer of a Panama flagged general cargo vessel AL. suffered serious injuries after heavy laminas crashed on his feet during unloading operations, due to mishandling of one of the vessel’s cranes by another crewmember. A lawsuit against the ship-owners and ship managers was filed before the Courts of Piraeus, and the seaman received full compensation for his injury and his subsequent disability, as it was proven that the accident had been the result of breach of ship safety regulations.

While sailing in the Mediterranean under adverse weather conditions the Comoros flagged general cargo ship K. sank and all crew was lost. Our office represented the families of nine crewmembers and established by technical experts and investigation that the vessel was unseaworthy, insufficiently maintained and in bad condition, which resulted to the sinking. Claims for compensation were pursued in Greek Courts and the case was settled at some stage of the litigation.

Five Egyptian fishermen, being the crew of fishing vessel L. along with two Greek seamen, lost their lives as a result of its sinking on January 23, 1999 near the island of Kythnos, Greece. Lawsuits for monetary compensation had been filed before the Piraeus Courts on behalf of the seamen’s families. The single-ship registered owning company’s rights on insurance in London had been attached by way of a freezing order and thus enforcement of the final judgment of the Piraeus courts was possible.

In 1997 Cyprus flagged containership A.C. collided with a fishing boat in the straits of Chalkis, Greece. The fishing boat capsized and sank, resulting to the death of 5 fishermen onboard the fishing boat. Our office represented the families of the 5 deceased fishermen, and successfully settled their claims after pursuing them judicially in the Courts of Piraeus.

Our firm represented the families of the 4 petty officers who were killed during the collision of the Greek flagged passenger boat S. with a Greek Navy torpedo-missile speedboat K. on November 11, 1996, near the island of Samos, Greece. Lawsuits were filed against the owners of Ro/Ro S. as well as against the Greek State. Both lawsuits ended successfully and victims’ families were awarded record compensations from both defendants.

After approximately 25 days continuous days in the ocean, a bulk carrier called port (New Orleans) and most of the crew members went ashore for recreation during the night. On his way back to the vessel a crewmember was fatally attacked by unknown assailants. Our office successfully represented the family of the deceased seaman before the Courts of Piraeus both at first and second instance. The Courts ruled that injury or death of a seaman in the course of his recreation or on his way out of or back to the vessel, is to be regarded as a work related accident, as due to the nature of the work of seamen recreation on foreign ports is an essential and integral part of their employments, necessary for their mental and psychological stability, and accordingly any accident suffered within that context falls within the ambit of their employment.