The key elements of yacht registration under the Malta Flag
The Maltese Shipping Registry is one of the most reputable registers in the world with a strong legal and regulatory platform. Malta adheres to internationally recognized standards and has an active participation in international shipping fora.
Malta also offers efficient procedures for the registration of yachts, and the registration of mortgages over such registered yachts. Moreover, yachts registered under the Malta flag for commercial use benefit from the tonnage tax regime. This means that their owners are exempt from paying income tax on the profits generated by the use of the yacht and in turn settle an annual tonnage tax which is a fee calculated on the tonnage of the yacht.
Malta is also notable for not imposing restrictions to the nationality of the crew serving on commercial registered yachts or on the nationality of shareholders and directors of Maltese shipping companies.
What constitutes a yacht under Maltese Law?
A yacht can be either a pleasure yacht or a commercial yacht. A pleasure yacht is one which is more than 6 meters in length and does not carry passengers for reward. Therefore, the sole purpose of a pleasure yacht is to be used by the owner and consequently it cannot be engaged in trade. On the other hand, a commercial yacht should be more than 15 meters in length, not more than 3,000 gross tonnes in weight, and cannot carry cargo or more than 12 passengers. Moreover, a commercial yacht is operated for commercial activities such as chartering to third parties.
Commercial yachts may be granted one of three navigation notations – navigation within 60 nautical miles from safe (short-range navigation), navigation within 150 nautical miles from safe haven or restricted navigation.
Persons eligible to own a Maltese registered yacht
A yacht may be registered under the Malta flag as long as it owned by a company or entity (irrespective of its place of incorporation), or by a citizen of the EU or the EEA. In order for an international owner (not being a Maltese citizen or a Maltese entity) to register a yacht in Malta he/it should appoint a resident agent.
Pursuant to Ships Eligible for Registration Regulations, 2003, a resident agent must be habitually resident in Malta. The resident agent’s main role is to act as a channel of communication between the international owner and the Maltese authorities. The resident agent is empowered to sign and file documents on behalf of the international owner with the Maltese authorities and may act as the owner’s judicial representative. However, the resident agent cannot be held personally liable for non-compliance by the international owner unless there is an agreement to the contrary.
Can a yacht under construction be registered under Malta Flag?
Malta allows for the registration of yachts which are in the process of being built. In such cases, the rules relating to survey and safety of ships usually adhered to by yachts already built would be suspended. Moreover, if the builders of the yacht have not yet effected delivery to owners, the formal declaration of ownership of the yacht will be suspended until construction is completed, or until delivery has been made.
What does the yacht registration procedure involve?
The owner should firstly reserve the yacht’s name and provisionally register the yacht with the Maltese Shipping Registry. Within the first month of provisional registration, the owner should hand over to the Registrar of Ships a bill of sale or a builder’s certificate in the name of the applicant. The owner should also then provide satisfactory evidence to the Registrar that any foreign certificates of registry have been duly closed. Moreover, within 6 months of provisional registration the owner should produce a certificate of survey issued by an appointed surveyor or recognized organization and a copy of the ship’s current International Tonnage Certificate and CE- Marking Certificate, should the yacht exceed 24 meters. Prior to registering a commercial yacht, it must undergo a survey by a government-appointed surveyor (or a recognized organization) whose task would be to draw up a record of compliance with the appropriate standards set out in the Commercial Yacht Code and assess the economic cost of bringing the yacht in conformity with the requirements of the Commercial Yacht Code.