The Merchant Shipping Act (Chapter 234 of the Laws of Malta) defines a ''ship'' as every description of vessel used in navigation, whether self-propelled or not, and it includes barges, pontoons, floating establishments, installations or structures, oil rigs and other similar vessels, and for those parts of the Act wherever applicable it shall also include a ship under construction. A ship registered in Malta pursuant to the Act shall enjoy the rights and privileges of a Maltese ship. It is also possible register any ship which is being built or equipped and that when built or equipped will be a ship registrable under this Act.
The provisional registration of a ship in Malta is valid for six months and may be extended for further periods up to one year. The age of the vessel is an important factor to determine whether a ship is eligible for registration in Malta. as a rule, no vessels over 25 years may be registered in Malta and vessels of 15 years and over must first undergo a pre-registration inspection. The primary purpose of the pre-registration inspection is to establish whether the ship complies with all the applicable international safety and prevention of marine pollution conventions as well as the maritime labour convention, amongst others.
All IACS members are recognized organizations for the purposes of surveying, inspecting, verifications and issuing on behalf of the Malta Flag the safety and statutory certificates to vessels registered in Malta as well as ISM managers who have assumed the technical responsibility of Malta flagged vessels.
Vessels may be registered in Malta in the name of a Maltese shipping organization or a foreign body corporate registered in a jurisdiction recognized by Malta. Vessels registered in the ownership of a Maltese shipping organization may also be entered into the tonnage tax regime provided all other conditions are met. Similarly, vessels under the flag of a European Member State and owned by a Maltese shipping organization may apply to be admitted to the tonnage tax regime on condition that the Maltese shipping organization pays at least the equivalent of 25% of the tonnage fees which would have been payable had the vessel been registered in Malta. non-Maltese registered entities owning or operating a Malta flagged vessel may not apply for the tonnage tax status. Also excluded from the tonnage tax regime are ships which are not employed in the international carriage of goods and passengers by sea. Subject to certain limited exceptions, vessels which are bareboat chartered by Maltese shipping organizations may not qualify for tonnage tax ship status. To be admitted to the tonnage tax regime, the shipping organization owning or operating a vessel must submit an application to the Registrar of Maltese Ships and Seaman following the registration of the vessel in Malta.
Proof of ownership such as a copy of a bill of sale or a contract of sale and purchase must also be submitted to the Registrar to obtain the provisional registration of a vessel in Malta. The original bill of sale or other document of title together with the original deletion certificate issued by the previous flag must be submitted to the Registrar for the permanent registration. The original document of title is entered in the ship’s registry and returned to the owners.
Vessels registered in Malta in the name of a foreign corporate body, or a citizen of the EU or EEA or Switzerland or of the UK not residing in Malta, also known as international owner, must appoint a resident agent in Malta. The primary role of the resident agent is to act as a channel of communication between the Maltese authorities and the owners or managers of the vessel. Moreover, the resident agent so appointed also acts as the judicial representative of the international owner for judicial proceedings in Malta, and for the purposes of the Act, any official notice sent to the resident agent at his last registered address shall be deemed to have been duly received by and notified to the international owner.
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