Ships and yacht registrations

Registration of ships under the Malta flag

A vessel is first registered provisionally under the Malta flag for six months (extendable for a further period, or periods, not exceeding six months in the aggregate) during which period all required documentation must be finalised.

The requirements, for provisional registration are:

  • An application for registration by the owner or an authorised representative
  • An application for a change of name, if required
  • A copy of the ship’s International Tonnage Certificate, where applicable
  • Proof of qualification to own a Maltese ship; in the case of a body corporate, the memorandum and articles of association
  • A declaration of ownership made before the Registrar by the owner or an authorised representative
  • Evidence of seaworthiness; in the case of trading vessels, confirmation of class
  • Payment of initial and annual registration fees

The following documents must be submitted during provisional registration:

  • A builder’s certificate if the vessel has not been registered elsewhere; otherwise, a bill of sale or any other document by which the vessel was transferred to the applicant for registry
  • A cancellation of registry certificate from the last country of registry
  • A Certificate of Survey and a copy of the International Tonnage Certificate certifying that the vessel has been surveyed in accordance with Maltese regulations
  • Evidence that the vessel has been marked in accordance with the law
  • The crew list of the vessel
  • Where valid appropriate convention certificates are not in place, the ship will be issued a non-operational Certificate of Registry. A Certificate of Registry is subject to renewal on the anniversary of the registration of the ship

Bareboat charter registration

A fundamental requirement for bareboat registration is the compatibility of the two registers. Matters relating to title over the ship, mortgages and encumbrances are governed by the underlying registry, while the operation of the vessel falls under jurisdiction of the bareboat charter registry.

A bareboat charter registration may exist for the duration of the bareboat charter or until the expiry date of the underlying registration, whichever is the shorter, in any case up to a maximum of two years but may be extended.

The consent in writing of the underlying registry, owners and mortgages is in all cases required.

The fees for bareboat charter registration are the same as those payable for normal registration.

Manning and certification of seafarers

Maltese ships are subject to the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1973 as amended, ancillary regulations and STCW 78 Convention (as amended) regarding the manning and certification of seafarers. There are no restrictions on the nationality of the master, officers and crew engaged on Maltese ships. Foreign certificates issued in terms of the 1978 STCW Convention as amended, require an endorsement issued by the Maltese Administration attesting their recognition.

International Conventions and Agreements

Malta has practically adopted all the major international maritime conventions and ILO conventions.


Registration, transfer, amendment and discharge of mortgages may be affected immediately on presentation of the relative documents to the Registrar. Important safeguards to the mortgages of Maltese ships have been inbuilt into Malta legislation therefore making financing more attractive.

Tax matters

Income from shipping activities, mainly the international carriage of goods or passengers by sea, is eligible to benefit from the tonnage tax regime and therefore the income will be exempt from any tax other than the tonnage tax which is calculated on the basis of the tonnage of the vessel.

Alternatively, the income may be subject to tax in Malta at the rate of 35% under the normal tax regime, however the effective tax in Malta may be substantially reduced at the level of the shareholder as a result of a claim for refund of 6/7ths of the tax paid in Malta by the company carrying out the shipping activities.


An extensive network of inspectors and consulates worldwide to carry out inspections on Maltese flagged vessels in different ports worldwide. The inspections are in addition to the regular statutory surveys conducted by the classification societies and are carried out only on the specific instructions of the Merchant Shipping Directorate. There are no additional charges for these inspections except when the vessel has to undergo a second or subsequent inspection to ascertain that reported deficiencies have been corrected and, when a ship is inspected prior to provisional registration.