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  1. #1
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    Legal Situation when booking a LIveaboard

    Has anyone given much thought to the legal position when you book a place on a liveaboard?

    Just about all sites that I can see that allow you to book on a liveaboard state in their terms that they operate as an agent on behalf of "the operator". Often they don't even specify who the operator is. So this would seem to mean that, when you book with them, you are entering into a contract with some boat operator in a distant country whose name you don't even know. If there are problems with the trip, say the boat sinks before departure, or you get injured on the boat through the fault of the crew, it's not the responsibility of the agent to reimburse or compensate you, it's the responsibility of the "operator". IF you are able to find out who this is, you may find that it's a person or company in the country where your liveaboard is based. It's going to be very hard, if not impossible to pursue them for damages.

    Far better if you can use a credit card and book direct with the operator. In the UK at least, you then have the right to claim against your credit card company instead of the operator. That's going to be a lot easier - you can go to the Financial Ombudsman if they fail to pay up, and sue them in the English courts. POSSIBLY you might be able to do this if you book through an agent as well, but the legal arguments are going to be very difficult.

    So has anyone tried to do this when booking a liveaboard? Do you bypass the agent, find the operator, and book direct with them? Clearly this still only works if they'll take a credit card, but it will be worth doing if they will.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    You need to read this "The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018". They may or may not apply, but still a good read.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward3c View Post
    You need to read this "The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018". They may or may not apply, but still a good read.
    They generally wouldn't apply would they? Mostly you book a place on a liveaboard and your flights separately.

    I once met some people who had booked on a yacht trip from Ushuaia to the Antarctic (not diving but same issues). The yacht had so many problems they didn't even get into the Drake Passage. I don't think they got their money back. So this sort of thing is an issue.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arbu View Post
    They generally wouldn't apply would they? Mostly you book a place on a liveaboard and your flights separately.
    A live-aboard does come under the regulations, it’s providing three the the elements, diving, accommodation and travel between dive sites.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward3c View Post
    A live-aboard does come under the regulations, it’s providing three the the elements, diving, accommodation and travel between dive sites.
    "(5) In these Regulations, subject to paragraph (6), a “package” means a combination of at least two different types of travel services for the purpose of the same trip or holiday, if—

    (a)those services are combined by one trader, including at the request of, or in accordance with, the selection of the traveller, before a single contract on all services is concluded; or
    (b)those services are—
    (i)purchased from a single point of sale and selected before the traveller agrees to pay, [or]
    (ii)offered, sold or charged at an inclusive or total price,..." and

    "travel service” means—
    (a)the carriage of passengers;
    (b)the provision of accommodation which is not intrinsically part of the carriage of passengers and is not for residential purposes;
    (c)the rental of—
    (i)cars;
    (ii)other motor vehicles within the meaning of Article 3(11) of Directive 2007/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for the approval of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles(2); or
    (iii)motorcycles requiring a Category A driving licence in accordance with point (c) of Article 4(3) of Directive 2006/126/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on driving licences(3);
    (d)any other tourist service not intrinsically part of a travel service within the meaning of paragraph (a), (b) or (c);"

    So your liveaboard certainly includes (a). Is your accommodation on the boat intrinsically part of the carriage? I would say no, because you are using it a lot of the time when carriage is not taking place. And the diving certainly seems to be a tourist service not intrinsically part of a travel service. So agreed, thanks, a liveaboard is a package, even though you book flights separately.

  6. #6
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    Book through a reputable agent. Last time I looked Egypt wasn't in the UK so best of luck getting anything out of them if you need to go down that route.

    I've known people go on cheap Egyptian liveaboards and the boat was shonky as hell. You could have 2 of the following but not all 3- boat engine, compressor, air con. Plus there was little in the way of safety equipment. I believe it sunk the year after they went...

    Then again I've been on some very well known Red Sea boats and some have been a thin veneer of "luxury" over a shoddy, shonkily built boat. Hulls with soft wood I could push my finger into, the flybridge was a bit of ply bent round some timber, nailed on and covered with a skim of resin. The ends of the nails were poking through into the storage behind.
    Last edited by Woz; 12-11-2021 at 10:20 AM.
    I have nothing to do with BSAC any more apart from being a muggle member. So anything I write on here is likely to be complete bollocks. Hooray!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woz View Post
    Book through a reputable agent. Last time I looked Egypt wasn't in the UK so best of luck getting anything out of them if you need to go down that route.

    I've known people go on cheap Egyptian liveaboards and the boat was shonky as hell. You could have 2 of the following but not all 3- boat engine, compressor, air con. Plus there was little in the way of safety equipment. I believe it sunk the year after they went...

    Then again I've been on some very well known Red Sea boats and some have been a thin veneer of "luxury" over a shoddy, shonkily built boat. Hulls with soft wood I could push my finger into, the flybridge was a bit of ply bent round some timber, nailed on and covered with a skim of resin. The ends of the nails were poking through into the storage behind.
    Yes, and book with an agent registered in the EU or UK so that you know the package holiday directive applies.

    I booked a trip with a Swiss travel agent. It was described as:

    "Snorkel with up to thirteen species of whales reside (sic) around the island of Sri Lanka including Blue Whales, Sperm Whales, Humpback Whales, Melon Headed Whales, Pilot Whales, Pilot Whales and False Killer Whales." It was only about $2500 and I was told it was a special discounted trip.

    Four months after booking, and about a month before I was due to go out, I got a message from the agent saying that the boat had "faced numerous challenges on several fronts and the franchise owners have concluded that they will not be able to deliver consistently the ... experience that our guests have come to expect." So they cancelled the trip. I found an alternative trip, again snorkelling with blue whales, but it was about three times the price. I asked the agent to put me on that instead. They refused. The package holiday regulations (s. 15(6)) would have given me some right to rebook the alternative and seek compensation from the agent, and I think I probably still would be entitled to do so. Only thing is, does anyone know if they or similar regulations apply in Switzerland? I need to find out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arbu View Post
    Four months after booking, and about a month before I was due to go out, I got a message from the agent saying that the boat had "faced numerous challenges on several fronts and the franchise owners have concluded that they will not be able to deliver consistently the ... experience that our guests have come to expect." So they cancelled the trip. I found an alternative trip, again snorkelling with blue whales, but it was about three times the price. I asked the agent to put me on that instead. They refused. The package holiday regulations (s. 15(6)) would have given me some right to rebook the alternative and seek compensation from the agent, and I think I probably still would be entitled to do so. Only thing is, does anyone know if they or similar regulations apply in Switzerland? I need to find out.
    When I book overseas trips, my assumption is the money is lost if anything goes wrong. That's the joy of worldwide travel.

    I was really surprised when COVID hit. All the stuff I'd paid for in Thailand was refunded, even the hotel booked on a no-refund cheap deal. Guess where I'll be staying next time I'm in Thailand.
    Last edited by Edward3c; 12-11-2021 at 11:34 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward3c View Post
    When I book overseas trips, my assumption is the money is lost if anything goes wrong. That's the joy of worldwide travel.

    I was really surprised when COVID hit. All the stuff I'd paid for in Thailand was refunded, even the hotel booked on a no-refund cheap deal. Guess where I'll be staying next time I'm in Thailand.
    I would always try to use a credit card where I can so that I can get my money back if things don't work out. It's just an issue where I'm paying an agent to book me tickets with an operator. I have sent cash on occasions (to Russia, Burma and Panama) and never had any problems, but I've never been very comfortable about it.

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    Anyway, I found the Swiss package travel regulations: https://www.fedlex.admin.ch/eli/cc/1...2_3152_3152/en

    They define an Organiser, who in my case would be the operator of the boat, and a Retailer, who would be the agent in Switzerland. Section 7 (Cancellation of the Package) would apply. I don't consider the fact that the boat was not seaworthy to have been a force majeure - the boat was the organiser's responsibility. So Section 6 (Article 10) is relevant. 3c happened - I was repaid in full. 4 says that a claim for damages for non-performance remains reserved. Which is fine, but it means that the package travel regulations are giving me no better rights than in the ordinary law of contract. I'm left with the situation where I have paid an agent in Switzerland to book me a package with an unidentified entity in Sri Lanka. It's not a very convincing argument that the Swiss company can claim to be an agent for an unidentified principal. But, I've taken the matter to my credit card company and they insist that they won't pay me any damages because of this. And I've complained to the Financial Ombudsman, who says the same. So I think that might be the end of the story. Moral is to try to book with a UK or EU "agent", or direct with the operator if you possibly can. But the latter is going to be hard. Here's a conversation I had with an agent:

    Me: "But who is my contract actually with? You can't enter into a contract
    with a boat. If you are only an intermediary I would want to know who is
    responsible for delivering the services that I have booked."
    Agent: "Your booking is with us and we will be responsible for the booking process, however the boat (operator) will be delivering the service such as the diving, food and sleeping arrangements."

    So they wouldn't answer me, and you can never actually know who the operator is. That should mean that the agent is liable. But it seems you would probably have to take the agent or your credit card company to court to establish that - even the Financial Ombudsman doesn't accept it.


 
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