Sea-vessel regulation under the Maltese flag and the operation of Maltese registered ships is regulated by the Merchant Shipping Act of 1973, legislation largely modeled on United Kingdom Law, subsequently revised and amended in  1986, 1988, 1990, 2000 and 2010.

Eligibility for Registration

  • All vessels may be registered provided they are wholly owned by legally constituted corporate bodies or entities
  • No nationality requirements vis-à-vis directors or shareholders
  • Trading ships of 25 years and over are not registered , although exceptionally registration may be considered
  • Ships of 20 years and over but under 25 years are required to undergo successfully an authorized flag State inspection prior to provisional registration
  • Ships of 15 years and over but under 20 years are required to successfully undergo an inspection by an authorized flag State inspector before or within one month of provisional registration

Further qualifications:
Vessels must be wholly owned by:

  • Maltese citizens;
  • Corporate bodies established under Maltese law and regulated by Maltese law;
  • EU citizens (provided they appoint a Maltese resident agent);
  • Corporate bodies established outside Malta which appoint a Malta resident agent.

Registration Procedure

A vessel is first registered provisionally for six months, such period being extendable to a further six months, during which period all documents must be submitted. Provisional registration has the same effect of permanent registration for all intents and purposes of the law.

Maltese Law provides for bareboat charter registration of foreign ships and for Maltese ships registered under a foreign flag. The main principle adopted is the compatibility of the two registries. Ships bareboat charter enjoy the same rights and privileges and have the same obligations as any other ship registered in Malta. A bareboat charter registration shall be for the duration of the charter or until the expiry date of the underlying registration, whichever is the shorter but can in no case exceed two years.

Maltese law also provides for the registration of ships and vessels that are being built and equipped. The requirements in relation to the survey and safety of the ship will be postponed until the completion of the construction. Sea-vessels to be classified as trading ships are to be built under the supervision of a recognized organization.

Requirements for Provisional Registration

In order for a Provisional Registration Certificate to be issued, the following requirements must be satisfied:

  • Application for registration by the owner or authorized representative
  • Proof of qualification to own a Maltese ship, in case of a body corporate, the document of incorporation
  • In case of non-Maltese owners, appointment of a resident-agent
  • Copy of current ship’s International Tonnage Certificate
  • Declaration of Ownership
  • Evidence of Seaworthiness
  • Request for the Administration to authorize the appropriate recognized classification society to issue the ship’s and the company statutory certificate
  • Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance
  • Application for Minimum Safe Manning Certificate
  • Payment of Initial registration fees and annual tonnage tax
  • Application for Ship Radio Station License

Requirements for Permanent Registration

In order for a Permanent Registration Certificate to be issued, the following documents must be presented:

  • A bill of sale or any other document by which the vessel was transferred to the applicant, where there was previous ownership
  • Cancellation of registry certificate issued by the administration where the vessel was last document, where applicable
  • In case of SOLAS ships – copy of the last updated Continuous Synopsis Record issued by the administration where the ship was last documented
  • Certificate of Survey
  • Evidence that the vessel has been marked in accordance with the law Ship Finance

Ship Finance

  • Once a ship is provisionally registered, registration, amendment transfer and discharge of mortgages may be effected immediately on presentation of the relative documents to the Registrar
  • Registered mortgages constitute an executive title under Maltese law, hence they may be enforced immediately without the need of obtaining prior court approval
  • The mortgagee has the benefit of the court approved private sale. In addition, claims secured by a registered mortgage enjoy a relatively high ranking under our law
  • The written consent of the mortgagee is necessary prior to the deletion of the vessel from the Register

Administrative Fees

Registration fees and annual tonnage tax for all ships as well as reduction or increase on the rate can be accessed by visiting:


Practice Areas


ATL Business Centre
89, Suite 3, Cannon Road, St Venera,
SVR9035, Malta

Tel: +356 2779 0100
Fax: +356 2733 2844

Skype: rudolph.alleybe