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Malta Ship Registration

Ship & Yacht Registration

Malta Ship Registration

The process of registering vessels under the Maltese flag is governed by the Merchant Shipping Act of 1973 (along with its subsequent revisions and amendments), supplemented by subsidiary regulations. Malta has also ratified major international maritime conventions. Apart from its streamlined legislative framework, Malta offers competitive operating costs, political stability, and extensive technical expertise in the maritime industry. These factors have led Malta to become the largest maritime registry in the European Union, earning a reputation as a highly respected flag State.

Responsibility for vessel registration and associated matters lies with the Merchant Shipping Directorate (referred to as the ‘MSD’) under the Authority for Transport in Malta. Vessel registration is a significant undertaking for any nation, as it entails international obligations to ensure compliance with global maritime standards. The flag State is tasked with ensuring that its registered vessels adhere to all trading certificates and undergo necessary inspections to maintain safety at sea.

Maltese legislation permits shipbuilders or owners to register various types of vessels, from super yachts to barges and oil rigs. Generally, trading ships aged 25 years and older are not eligible for registration. Ships aged 20 to 25 years require inspection by an authorized flag state inspector before provisional registration. Similarly, ships aged 15 to 20 years must undergo inspection either before or within one month of provisional registration.

For a vessel to be registered under the Act, ownership criteria include:

  • Citizenship of Malta [Art. 4(1)(a) of the Merchant Shipping Act];
  • Corporate bodies subject to Maltese law, with principal places of business in Malta or having business presence in Malta, ensuring compliance with Maltese shipping laws [Art. 4(1)(b) of the Merchant Shipping Act];
  • Citizens of EU Member States residing in Malta;
  • Foreign corporate bodies or entities with legal standing under relevant laws and satisfying the Registrar-General of compliance with Maltese shipping laws [Regulation 2(a) of the Ships Eligible for Registration Regulations S.L. 234.23];
  • Citizens of EU Member States not residing in Malta [Regulation 2(b) of the Ships Eligible for Registration Regulations S.L. 234.23].


In the latter two instances, referred to as international ownership, an appointed resident agent serves as a liaison between the international owner and the MSD, handling all matters related to vessel registration and representing the owner in Maltese courts.

The vessel registration process involves submitting an application by the ship owner or an authorized representative, along with proof of eligibility for Maltese vessel ownership. Initially, vessels are provisionally registered under the Malta flag for six months (extendable by another six months) while finalizing all documentation. Upon submission of all required documentation within specified time limits, a permanent Certificate of Registry, evidencing ownership and nationality, is issued. Owners have the option to rename vessels during registration. Registration fees, based on vessel tonnage, type, and age, are payable upon initial registration and annually thereafter.

Maltese law also permits provisional registration of vessels under construction or being equipped, offering advantages such as temporary relief from certain registration requirements until construction completion or vessel delivery. Despite these provisions, vessel registration during construction remains infrequent.


Key Persons

Luca Zahra Brincat

Corporate Lawyer

Ryan Barwari

Corporate Lawyer

Audrey Sapiano

Chief Commercial Officer

Angelo Vella


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