Ship registration and shipping finance

Malta has a reputable open ship register ranking amongst the top ten registers in the world that has been, without any doubt, advantageous to the country.
Ships have to be registered according to the Merchant Shipping Act and indeed, article 72 of the said act states that the maritime flag is different from the national flag, and penalties are imposed for improper use. The Act and subsidiary legislation are mainly based on UK legislation.
The advantages why one has to opt for registration in Malta are the following:

  • Low company formation and ship registration costs;
  • Complete tax exemption to owners, charterers and financiers of Maltese ships of over 1,000 net tons – this exemption may also be extended to smaller ships;
  • No restrictions on the nationality of the master, officers and crew;
  • No restrictions on the sale or transfer of shares of a company owning Maltese ships;
  • No restrictions on the sale and mortgaging of Maltese ships;
  • No trading restrictions to Maltese ships in certain ports;
  • Twenty four hour, seven days a week service in respect of urgent matters;
  • Malta is an international maritime centre providing the entire range of maritime services.

The Merchant Shipping Act and Legal Notice 384 of 2003 provide that all types of vessels, from pleasure yachts to oil rigs, may be registered, provided that they are either wholly owned by Maltese citizens or Maltese bodies corporate, or by international owners, that is, foreign legally constituted corporate bodies or other entities having legal personality, or citizens of a Member State of the European Union. However, the international owners must appoint a resident agent in Malta.
Some rules with regard to ship registration are the following:

  1. As a rule, ships of 25 years and over are not registered.
  2. Ships of 20 years and over but under 25 years must pass an inspection by an authorised flag state inspector prior to being provisionally registered.
  3. Ships of 15 years and over but under 20 years must pass an inspection by an authorised flag state inspector before or within one month of provisional registration.

The ship registration process found hereunder must be adhered to:
A vessel is first registered provisionally under the Maltese flag for six months (extendible for a further period, or periods, not exceeding six months in the aggregate) during which period, all required documentation must be finalized.
The requirements for provisional registration are:

  1. an application for registration by the owner or an authorized representative;
  2. An application for a change of name, if required;
  3. A copy of the ship’s International Tonnage Certificate, where applicable;
  4. Proof of qualification to own a Maltese ship; in the case of a body corporate, the memorandum and articles of association;
  5. A declaration of ownership made before the Registrar by the owner or an authorised representative;
  6. Evidence of seaworthiness; in the case of trading vessels, confirmation of class; and
  7.  Payment of initial and annual registration fees.

The documents that one has to submit during provisional registration are the following:

  1. A builder’s certificate if the vessel has not been registered elsewhere; otherwise, a bill of sale or any other document by which the vessel was transferred to the applicant for registry;
  2. A cancellation of registry certificate from the last country of registry;
  3. A Certificate of Survey and a copy of the International Tonnage Certificate certifying that the vessel has been surveyed in accordance with Maltese regulations;
  4. Evidence that the vessel has been marked in accordance with the law; and
  5. The crew list of the vessel

Where valid appropriate convention certificates are not in place, the ship will be issued a non-operational Certificate of Registry. A Certificate of Registry is subject to renewal on the anniversary of the registration of the ship.

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