Malta being an island in the central part of the Mediterranean has always been a centre of trade with a maritime tradition. Both in times of war and in times of peace, the island has featured prominently and geographically as a crucial link amongst all the key posts of the region, and as a focal point for international trade. All these factors have served to consolidate the maritime vocation and tradition in Malta. The comprehensive range of maritime service facilities, which Malta provides, has significantly enhanced the island’s reputation as an important maritime service centre.
Vessel registration under the Malta flag and the operation of ships is regulated by the Merchant Shipping Act (Chapter 234 of the Laws of Malta) which is based on the UK legislation but subsequently revised and amended (in 1986, 1988, 1990 and 2000). Any type of Vessel, ranging from oil rigs to pleasure yachts, may be registered under the Malta flag under the name of legally constituted corporate bodies or entities or by citizens of the European Union, or vessels registered under other flags on a bareboat charter to a Maltese company. Registration of a Maltese shipping company is a straightforward, inexpensive, and expeditious procedure.
The following advantages are offered to ship owners who decide
to register their ships under the Malta flag:
- Low company formation and registration costs;
- The Malta Flag does not impose restrictions on the nationality of vessels’ officers and crew members nor on the sale or transfer of shares of Maltese Ship Owning Companies;
- Complete tax exemption to owners, charterers, and financiers of Maltese ships;
- No restrictions on the sale and mortgaging of Maltese ships;
- No trading restrictions;
- Preferential treatment is given to Maltese ships in certain ports;
- Serious and efficient maritime administration;
- Flag state inspectorate to ensure adherence to international standards.
Malta is a party to most of the major conventions of International Maritime Organization (IMO) and The International Labour Organisation (ILO) including CLC69, COLREG 72, Tonnage 69, FUND 71, INMARSAT, London 72, MARPOL 73/78 and STCW78 (including 95 amendments). Malta registered ships are obliged to adhere to the provisions of these international conventions.
There is important to mention that ships of 20 years and over but under 25 years must pass an inspection by an authorised flag state inspector before or within one month from provisional registration. Ships 25 years or over must pass a flag state inspection prior to being provisionally registered.
Ships of 15 years and over but under 20 years are required to pass an inspection by an authorised flag state inspector before or within one month of provisional registration.
There is a possibility of provisional registration for the vessel after completion of all the formalities. Such registration is valid for 6 months and may be extended for a longer period at the discretion of the Registrar of Ships but only in limited cases.
The permanent registration is valid after submission of further documentation within 6 months of provisional registration. The following documents are necessary:
- Builders’ Certificate;
- International Tonnage Certificate and class registration (if applicable);
- Proof of title;
- A survey report issued by Government approved surveyors or an authorized Classification society;
- Evidence that the vessel has been marked in accordance with the law.
In cases of SOLAS vessels, a copy of the last updated Continuous Synopsis Record issued by an approved surveyor of ships is also required.
Maltese law distinguishes two types of registration for bareboat:
- bareboat charter registration of foreign ships under the Malta flag;
- bareboat charter registration of Maltese ships under a foreign flag.
- Ships bareboat charter registered in Malta have the same rights and privileges and have the same obligations as any other ship registered in Malta.
- The ship is bareboat chartered to a body corporate, entity or such other person qualified to own a Maltese ship;
- The ship is not a Maltese ship, and is registered in a compatible registry;
- The ship is not registered in another bareboat registry.