The Maltese Flag Becomes Sixth Largest Maritime Flag in the World


Having moved up from seventh largest in 2013, late in 2014 the Maltese Ships Register officially became the sixth largest maritime flag worldwide, thus consolidating its status as the largest in Europe.

The Maltese legislative structure in relation to the maritime industry has rendered this possible through continuously re-adapting to both meet the standards required by the industry and offering certainty and security required by all stakeholders including owners, managers and operators. The Merchant Shipping Act (Chapter 234 of the Laws of Malta) avails itself of the term “ship” as an umbrella term incorporating ships that are under construction, pleasure boats, commercial yachts, tankers, container and other commercial ships, barges, offloading vessels and extending to marine structures such as oil rigs and pontoons, making it possible for all of these to be registered beneath the Malta flag in Transport Malta’s Ship Register.

Furthermore, the Act allows bare boat charter registration of ships. Where two jurisdictions are deemed to be legally compatible, owners and charterers will find that they can benefit from a considerable degree of flexibility in contractual arrangements and ship operation. Through the Act, Malta is compatible with a multitude of other flags worldwide including, but not limited to those of Antigua, Barbuda, the Bahamas, Cyprus, the Isle of Man, Italy, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Panama, Turkey and Spain.

Further regarding Maltese maritime law, certain restrictions apply on ships of a certain age. Whilst ships of 25 years and older are not allowed to be registered beneath the Malta flag, thus considerably lowering the age of ships listed on the Maltese register, ships between 15 and just under 20 years of age need to be inspected within a month of provisional registration.

Malta’s ability to progress and maintain its high reputation within the maritime industry is largely due to ongoing amendments to governing laws in this regard, that render Malta more efficient and accessible in its maritime administration. The combination of this and solid supporting infrastructure, including expert and trustworthy service providers and several other services keep attracting many of the most demanding and notable ship owners and financiers.

Recently, an amendment to Maltese law has made it possible for creditors holding an executive titles (such as that of mortgagees) seeking to strengthen their rights, to sell their ship either privately, via judicial auction or through court-approved private sales in the case of there being an identified buyer and a fixed price.