The Malta Flag

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The Malta Flag is but a facet of the banking, financial and maritime services that Malta has targeted for itself as the planned major growth sectors of its economy. In addition to the considerable size of its Shipping Registry, Malta offeres a wide range of shipping services amongst which are shipbuilding, ship repairs, Malta Freeport operations as well as bunkering and supply services.

The Malta Flag formally came into existence as an “open” register in 1973 with the promulgation of the Merchant Shipping Act, Chapter 234 (the “Act”). It has experienced significant and constant growth since its birth and has now established itself amongst the largest shipping registries in the world when considering terms of tonnage. Malta’s accession to the European Union in 2004 has gone a long way in making the Malta Flag more attractive to operators and charterers alike. The administration of the Malta Registry of Shipping and Seamen (the “Registry”) is now, more than ever, giving increasing and fundamental importance to safety of life at sea and the prevention of pollution as well as compliance with international Maritime conventions.

The Registry is administered by the Merchant Shipping Authority which was established in 1991 following the enactment of the Malta Transport Authority Act, Chapter 352.

The Act provides that the homeport of every vessel registered under the Maltese Flag is “VALLETTA”.

Advantages to Shipowners

The following are some of the advantages and benefits which accrue to users of the Malta Flag:

  • Malta is now a member of the EU, a member of Paris MOU and is well placed on the White List of Paris MOU. This will prove to give the operator of a Malta flag vessel improved marketing benefits;
  • Vessels of 1,000 net tons and over are automatically exempt from income tax and from duty on transfers or assignments, donation and succession duty; exemption from income tax also applies to dividends paid to shareholders;
  • Vessels under 1,000 net tons (with the exception of pleasure yachts) also qualify for the same exemptions, although such exemptions are only granted in accordance with current policy and after the filing of an appropriate application;
  • No exchange control authorisations are required for the purpose of incorporating or operating a shipping company; this also applies to the taking of security for loans or other facilities over Maltese-registered vessels owned by companies registered locally;
  • It is possible to register under the Malta Flag vessels which do not fall within the strict definition of ships, such as oil-rigs, floating docks, pontoons and barges;
  • There are no restrictions on the nationality of the master, officers and crew serving on board Malta-flagged vessels;
  • There are no restrictions on the nationality of shareholders and directors of shipping companies incorporated in Malta;
  • Company incorporation costs are low and the registration fees highly competitive;
  • Procedures for the registration or deletion of vessels as well as for the registration and discharge of mortgages are user-friendly and uncomplicated;
  • It is possible to have immediate access to decision makers within the administration, backed by a qualified and efficient team of technical officers, available for urgent matters on a 24 hour basis;
  • A global network of consular offices offers constant support to ship operators;
  • A number of double taxation and bilateral maritime agreements with other maritime nations are in force;
  • No trading restrictions are imposed on vessels registered under the Malta Flag;
  • Malta is a politically stable democracy and this guards against arbitrary changes to applicable laws and regulations.
Authorised Classification Societies

It is a pre-requisite for a Maltese ship to be classed with a classification society authorised to issue statutory certificates, including certificates in terms of the ISM Code and the ISPS Code, on behalf of the Government of Malta.

The classification societies that are recognised/authorised by the Maltese Administration for this purpose are available by clicking here.

Guidelines for the ascertainment of sea worthiness of vessels being registered as Maltese ships

In 2011, the Merchant Shipping Directorate had reviewed the guidelines for ascertaining the seaworthiness required in terms of article 12(a) of the Merchant Shipping Act for vessels being registered as Maltese ships.

To access the latest version of the guidelines, click here.

Registration fees and tonnage tax

To refer to applicable registration fees, click here.

You may also wish to consult the Ship Registration Fees Calculator.