Malta: Law of Offshore
The original Maltese Merchant Shipping Act 1973 based on English law has been adapted and modernised in 1986, 1988 and 1990; and further improvements are planned. The Merchant Shipping Directorate of the Malta Maritime Authority supervises the sector and has developed a world-wide network of surveyors and inspectors. Malta is a member of the International Maritime Organisation and has adopted almost all the major international maritime conventions, including:
CLC69, Tonnage 69, COLREG 72, FUND 71, INMARSAT, Load Lines 66, London 72, MARPOL 73/78, SOLAS 74/78 and STCW 78.
The Maltese registry accepts all types of vessel, from pleasure yachts to oil rigs, provided they are owned by citizens of Malta or a company registered in Malta. Provisional registration is given quickly, allowing six months (can be extended to 12) for formalities to be completed. The documents required for provisional registration are:
- registration application from the owner or authorised representative giving details of the ship and current registry, if any;
- proof of Maltese company registration, or citizenship;
- declaration of ownership by the owner or authorised representative;
- evidence of seaworthiness (only for trading vessels);
- payment of initial and annual registration fees.
Initial Registration fees are on a sliding scale from EUR625 for up to 2,500 tons with an annual tonnage tax EUR1,000, a fee of EUR0.25 per ton is payable from 2,500 tons to 8,000 tons. Above 8,000 tons, the fee for tonnage above the minimum drops to EUR0.07 and the initial registration fee increases to EUR2,000 for 8,001 to 10,000 ton vessels, EUR2,140 for 10,001 to 15,000 ton vessel, EUR2,490 for 15,001 to 20,000 ton vessels, EUR2,840 for 20,001 to 30,000 ton vessels, EUR3,540 for 30,001 to 50,000 ton vessels and EUR4,940 for vessels above 50,000 tons.
Annual fees are EUR1,000 and EUR0,40 per ton in excess of 2,500 tons and up to 8,000 tons, EUR3,200 for 8,000 to 10,000 ton vessels with EUR0.19 per ton in excess of 8,000 tons, EUR3,580 for 10,000 to 15,000 ton vessels plus EUR0.14 per ton in excess of 10,000 tons, EUR4,280 for 15,000 to 20,000 ton vessels plus EUR0.12 per ton in excess of 15,000 tons, EUR4,880 for 20,000 to 30,000 ton vessels plus EUR0.09 per ton in excess of 20,000 tons, EUR5,780 for 30,000 to 50,000 ton vessels plus EUR0.07 per ton in excess of 30,000 tons and EUR7,180 for vessels above 50,000 tons plus EUR0.05 per ton in excess of 50,000 tons.
Permanent registration requires a considerable amount of documentation, essentially similar to that required by all registries.
Bareboat charter registration is allowed both of foreign ships under the Maltese flag and of Maltese ships under a foreign flag. There are no restrictions on the nationality of crew in Maltese law, and no age limit for ships, although ships older than 20 years must pass an inspection before or within one month of provisional registration; ships older than 25 years must pass an inspection before provisional registration.
The shipping laws are flexible with regard to sale or mortgaging of ships. Following provisional registration, mortgages can be registered, transferred or discharged with the Maltese Registrar. A registered mortgage can be enforced under Maltese law without the need for a judgement. A Maltese registry can be closed at the owner's request provided that liabilities towards Malta have been fulfilled, and with the consent of all registered mortgagees.
Masters and Officers must be certified by recognised authorities; crew lists must be provided giving rank, seamen book numbers and nationality. There must be a Crew Agreement between the Master and the seamen, witnessed by a shipping master; it is submitted to the Registrar. Maltese local minimum wage agreements apply to seamen and officers.