Ship Registration in Malta

Ship Registration in Malta

Why Register your Vessel under the Malta Flag?

  • Reputable and internationally recognised ship register
  • Leading European Flag
  • 24 hour, 7 days a week service
  • On the White List of the Paris MoU and Tokyo MoU
  • On the Low Risk Ship List of the Paris MoU
  • No restrictions on the nationality of masters, officers and crew employed on Maltese vessels
  • No trading restrictions on Maltese vessels
  • Fast registration and de-registration procedures
  • No hidden costs and no inspection fees
  • Maltese requirements are well known by the major shipyards and classification societies
  • Political stability
  • Many double tax treaties, with all major countries
  • Excellent telecommunications and air services

Who May Register a Ship under the Malta Flag?

Vessels eligible for registration under the Malta Flag must be wholly owned by:

  • Citizens of Malta;
  • European Union/ EEA/ Swiss citizens;
  • Corporate bodies established under the Laws of Malta;
  • Foreign corporate bodies or entities.

As a rule, trading ships of 25 years and over are not registered, although in certain circumstances this may be considered.

Merchant Ship Organisations

A shipping organisation qualifies as such if its principal objects relate to:

  • The ownership, operation (under charter or otherwise), administration and management of a registered Maltese ship (or registered under the flag of another state), and all ancillary financial, security and commercial activities in connection therewith; and/or
  • The holding of shares or other equity interests in entities, whether Maltese or otherwise, established for any of the purposes stated in Maltese Law and the carrying on of all ancillary financial, security and commercial activities in connection therewith; and/or
  • The raising of capital through loans, the issue of guarantees or the issue of securities by the Shipping Organisation when the purpose of such activity is to achieve the objects stated in this article for the Shipping Organisation itself or for other shipping organizations within the same group; and/or

Once a shipping organisation is registered as owner or bareboat charter of a Maltese registered ship, it is deemed to be a Licensed Shipping Organisation. If the shipping organisation carries out activities other than those listed above, a formal application for a licence will need to be submitted.

no tax should be charged or payable on income, profits or gains, to the extent that such income is derived from shipping activities, the sale or transfer of a tonnage tax ship

Provided that all relevant registration fees and tonnage taxes are duly paid, a shipping organisation registered and licensed in terms of Maltese law, will enjoy certain fiscal advantages in relation to its shipping activities. If a shipping organisation owns a ‘tonnage tax ship’ (a ship declared to be a tonnage tax ship by the Minister, or a community ship of not less than 1000 NT which is owned entirely, chartered, managed, administered or operated by a shipping organization); no tax should be charged or payable on income, profits or gains, to the extent that such income is derived from shipping activities, the sale or transfer of a tonnage tax ship.

Provisional Registration Procedures

A vessel is first registered provisionally under the Malta flag for six months (extendable for a further period, or periods not exceeding in the aggregate six months) during which period all documentation needs to be finalised and submitted to Transport Malta.

The requirements for provisional registration are:

  • Application for registration by the owner or an authorised representative;
  • Application for change of name of ship if applicable;
  • Proof of qualification to own a Maltese ship; in the case of a body corporate, the document of incorporation In the case of non-Maltese owners, appointment of a resident agent
  • Copy of the current ship’s International Tonnage Certificate (if applicable);
  • Declaration of ownership made in front of the Registrar by the owner or an authorised representative;
  • Evidence of seaworthiness. In the case of trading ships, confirmation of class with a recognised organisation, and information of the ship’s statutory certification including Company ISM compliance;
  • Request the Administration to authorise the appropriate recognised classification society to issue the ship’s and the Company statutory certificates (if applicable);
  • Application for Minimum Safe Manning Certificate (if applicable);
  • Payment of initial registration fees and annual tonnage tax;
  • Application for Ship Radio Station Licence

Registration Procedures… continued

The following documents are to be submitted during provisional registration:

  • Where there was previous ownership, a bill of sale or any other document by which the vessel was transferred to the applicant for registry;
  • In case of a new building, a builder’s certificate in the name of the applicant;
  • Cancellation of registry certificate issued by the Administration where the vessel was last documented (if applicable);
  • In the cases of SOLAS ships, a copy of the last updated Continuous Synopsis Record issued by the Administration where the ship was last documented;
  • Certificate of Survey and a copy of the International Tonnage Certificate issued by an approved surveyor of ships;
  • Evidence that the vessel has been marked in accordance with law

Where valid appropriate convention certificates are not in place the ship will be issued with a non-operational certificate of registry.

A certificate of Malta registry is subject to renewal on the anniversary of the Maltese registration.

A certificate of Malta registry is subject to renewal on the anniversary of the Maltese registration

Ships Under Construction

Maltese law provides for the registration of vessels that are being built or equipped. The requirements relating, inter alia, to survey and safety of ships already built and, to the declaration of ownership where the builders have not yet effected delivery to owners will be suspended until construction is completed or until delivery has been made. Vessels to be classed as trading ships are to be built under the supervision of a recognised organisation.

Bareboat Charter

Maltese law provides both for bareboat charter registration of foreign ships under the Malta flag and also for the bareboat charter registration of Maltese ships under a foreign flag. The main principles adopted at law are the compatibility of the two registries and that matters regarding title over the ship, mortgages and encumbrances are governed by the underlying registry, while operation of the vessel falls under jurisdiction of the bareboat charter registry.

ships bareboat charter registered in Malta enjoy the same rights and privileges, and have the same obligations as any other ship registered in Malta

Within these parameters, ships bareboat charter registered in Malta enjoy the same rights and privileges, and have the same obligations as any other ship registered in Malta. A bareboat charter registration shall be for the duration of the bareboat charter or until the expiry date of the underlying registration, whichever is the shorter, but in no case for a period exceeding two years. Registration may be extended. The requirements and registration procedure for bareboat charter registration in Malta are similar to a normal registration, except that:

  • Ship is bareboat chartered to a body corporate, entity or such other person qualified to own a Maltese ship;
  • Ship is not a Maltese ship, and is registered in a compatible registry;
  • Ship is not registered in another bareboat registry.

The following documents need to be produced:

  • Application for registration by the charterer or an authorised representative;
  • Declaration of bareboat charter accompanied by the charter agreement.
  • Transcript or an extract of the underlying registration.
  • Copy of the Ship’s International Tonnage Certificate.
  • Consent in writing of the underlying registry, owners and mortgagees.

Crew Certificates

Malta adheres to the IMO Convention STCW 1978 (as amended) and therefore vessels registered under Malta flag should comply with the requirements stipulated by this convention.

There are no restrictions regarding the nationality of the Master or officers on Maltese registered vessels as long as they are duly qualified and have applied for, or are in possession of, the relevant endorsement issued by the Malta government attesting the recognition of their certificate of competency.

In accordance with the international requirements, a vessel of 500 GRT and over should be in possession of a Minimum Safe Manning Certificate.  Upon registration, this certificate is obtained for a period of five years upon receipt of the relevant application form.  To renew this certificate, the same application form duly signed and completed should submitted.

Should there be any changes in the equipment, construction, trading area, name of vessel or any detail which might effect the minimum manning requirements, a new application form showing the changes effected is required.

Recognised Organisations

Survey, tonnage and convention certificates may be issued on behalf of the Malta government by all members of the International Association of Class Societies (IACS) and any other class society at the discretion of Transport Malta.


About Dr Doran Magri Demajo

Dr Doran Magri Demajo is a Partner at Be Legal and is primarily responsible for corporate law, employment law, financial services and Maritime law.
View all posts by Dr Doran Magri Demajo

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