What is a ship in terms of Maltese law?
The Merchant Shipping Act, enacted in 1973, 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.”
The Registration Process
Anyone who owns a ship and intends to register such ship with the Maltese Registry will need to submit an application which requires, amongst others, proof of qualification to own the vessel, a declaration of ownership, a copy of the ship’s International Tonnage Certification (where applicable), an application for minimum safe manning certificate, provision of evidence of seaworthiness and the payment of the initial registration fees and annual tonnage tax. Where the owner of the ship is not Maltese, the application may also be submitted by an authorised representative of the owner.
The provisional registration is granted for a six-month period however, this may be extended for further periods which shall not exceed six months. Within one month of the vessel’s provisional registration, further documentation must be submitted to the register, which shall include the builder’s certificate, documentation which evidence ownership of the vessel and documentation which indicate that any former registrations of the ship have been cancelled.
It is important to note that the registration process distinguishes between the age of the vessels. Vessels which are older than 15 years but not more than 20 years must pass an inspection by an authorised flag state before or within one month of provisional registration. When the ship is between 20 and 25 years of age, then it must pass an inspection before it is provisionally registered. Trading ships over the age of 25 years cannot be registered however, there may be specific instances in which this is allowed by the Register, at its own discretion and on a case-by-case basis decision. A similar process applies for Super Yachts and Bareboat Charter Registration.