With the start of a new year, we shall look back at the most important shipping and yachting updates in Malta, as well as what to expect in the coming months.
The concept of digitalization, which is a phenomenon globally applied with the aim to increase competitiveness and enhance operational efficiency, has been one of the main topics of discussion over the past year. The aim of the Government in this regard is for Transport Malta to remain active in its role in digitalization and innovation, this making the authority the most prevalent in Europe and the world.
The Merchant Shipping Directorate implemented its first digital project which digitalizes the application process for over 100,000 seafarers, thus resulting in increased efficiency in the processing of such applications. It has also launched a Preliminary Market Consultation back in July 2022 in view of ongoing efforts to shift towards digital platforms.
The community is becoming more aware of the need to shape the way the shipping and yachting industries operate in order to aid in the prevention of environmental damage caused by climate change. However, one should not overlook certain measures which were introduced in recent years, such as the 0.50% mass by mass limit introduced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for sulphur in fuel oil used on board ships, as of 1st January 2020.
This will result in a significant reduction in the amount of sulphur oxide emitted by ships, resulting in health and environmental benefits around the world. Furthermore, the EU Ship Recycling Regulation, has also been introduced, with the goal of reducing the negative impacts associated with ship recycling by ensuring that proper vessel dismantling methods are used to achieve safe disposal or recycling of all ship components, including hazardous materials.
In the 2023 budget, the Minister for Finance and Employment, announced further investments in the industry whereby vessels shall be able to switch off their engines when berthed and connect directly to the national grid. This shall reduce air pollution and improve the quality of life for those who reside in the surroundings of the harbours. Moreover, the first shore-to-ship connections of the cruise liner quays at Pinto Wharf, Floriana and Boiler Wharf, Senglea are scheduled to be commissioned in the second quarter of this year.
These incentives appear to be the best way forward in terms of sustainability in the maritime industry, particularly given the phenomenon of climate change, which is gradually affecting the environment. One must recognize that having sustainable shipping in this day and age can be quite challenging due to certain obstacles that may be encountered; however, it is rather essential to adopt measures within the industry to reduce emission and generate less pollution, which is after all beneficial to improve the quality of life.
During the 2023 budget, further announcements were made whereby it was confirmed that extension works shall occur on the Pinto and Lascaris Wharves with the aim to increase capacity and attract vessels up to 330 metres in length.
Special focus on the Yachting Industry
As of the 1st of June 2022, the Merchant Shipping Directorate launched the Commercial Yachts Extended Range Tender Guidelines which shall be applicable in conjunction with the requirements set out in the Commercial Yacht Code.
These Guidelines aim to regulate and establish procedural and safety measures, as well as, rules of certification, with respect to extended range tenders with a hull length of less than or equal to 24 metres, designated as an appurtenance, and falling under the registration certificate of the motor yacht. Other requirements emanating from these Guidelines include safety manning requirements, survey and certification requirements and insurance requirements.
With the continuous increase in superyacht registrations, Malta’s first National Policy for Yachting is also underway. Through this national policy, new incentives will be introduced with the intention of supporting the local superyacht industry. This national policy is critical to achieving and maintaining excellence in the maritime industry, where the Maltese flag currently serves as the largest merchant register in Europe and the sixth largest in the world. Indeed, the aim of the Government in this realm is to strengthen Malta’s position as a leading yachting jurisdiction and an international center of maritime excellence in the Mediterranean.
All in all, the Maltese maritime economy has seen tremendous success. Despite the fact that a number of measures have been put in place to encourage the development of such an industry, the need for collaboration and cooperation remains, in order to continue building on the maritime economy and realizing its full potential.
Article written by Dr. Claudia Borg, Junior Lawyer, BDO Legal Team
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