Malta Commercial Yacht Registration Process

| 10 Oct 2015

Chetcuti Cauchi

Malta Commercial Yacht Registration is very similar to the registration involving private pleasure yachts. However, in the case of Malta Commercial Yacht Registration, the yacht must also comply with the requirements of the Commercial Yacht Code or equivalent standard. 



Malta Commercial Yacht Registration: Categories of commercial yachts 

The Merchant Shipping Directorate considers a commercial registered yacht as a yacht, of 15 metres in length or more but not more than 3000 gross tonnes, which do not carry cargo, carries not more than 12 passengers and is operated by the owner or body corporate owning the yacht for commercial use.

The Malta Commercial Yacht Registration categorises commercial yachts into three distinct classes depending on the size and gross tonnage, as outlined below. The Commercial Yacht Code provides a level of safety standards corresponding to the yacht`s size and gross tonnage. 

Malta Commercial Yacht Registration considers the following classes of yachts:

  1. Yachts in commercial use of not less than 15 metres in length and not more than 24 metres.
  2. Superyachts in commercial use of more than 24 metres in length and less than 500 gross tonnes.
  3. Superyachts in commercial use of more than 24 metres in length and 500 gross tonnes and over but less than 3000 gross tonnes. 


Malta Commercial Yacht Registration: Requisites 

A yacht can be registered as commercial, under the Maltese flag and through Malta Commercial Yacht Registration, on the basis that it is owned by persons who are qualified to own a Maltese yacht. Such persons include Maltese or European Union citizens, as well as bodies corporate established in Malta. Nonetheless, Maltese law provides for other possibilities, namely to register the yacht in the name of an international owner and such owner would appoint a resident agent in Malta.

As another option, a shipping organisation can be set up; meaning a Maltese company which is set up for the purpose of owning the yacht and thus would be registered as the owner of the yacht. One should note that if such option is resorted to , the shipping organisation may benefit from certain fiscal favourable conditions.


Malta Commercial Yacht Registration:  Process 

As in the case of any other yacht registration under the Malta Flag, Malta Commercial Yacht Registration ensues in two stages. For a yacht to be registered commercially, through Malta Commercial Yacht Registration, it shall primarily be registered provisionally for six months and for which only a few documents are required to be filed with the Maltese Maritime Authority, and thereafter the operational certificate is issued upon fulfilment of all requirements.

When registering a yacht under the Malta flag through Malta Commercial Yacht Registration, the yacht is required to undergo an initial pre-registration survey. Such survey is performed by an approved Government surveyor or by a recognised international classification society. The latter survey will be the basis for verification and confirmation by the Maltese Maritime Authority that the yacht in question complies with the local coding legislation.  Any areas which do not strictly adhere to the coding will be discussed between the relative parties and alternatively, design options are proposed with the aim of accomplishing the required benchmarks. Thereafter, a Certificate of Compliance to Trade enabling operational registration is issued by the Maltese Maritime Authority; attesting that the yacht can operate as a commercial yacht. The said Compliance Certificate to trade as a commercial yacht is renewable every five years.

Following registration, yacht surveys need to be executed annually, and may be carried out by the crew if yacht is below 24 metres in length (Category 1), whereas if yacht is above 24 metres in length annual survey needs to be carried out by an approved Government surveyor or a recognised international classification society (Category 2 or 3).  


Malta Commercial Yacht Registration: Documents required for registration 

In order for the commercial yacht to be registered provisionally, the following documents need to be filed with the Maltese Maritime Authority.

  1. Application for registration by owner or an authorized representative proof of qualification to own a Maltese ship, in the case of a body corporate, the memorandum and articles of association; in the case of non Maltese owners, appointment of a resident agent declaration of ownership made in front of the Registrar by the owner or an authorized representative where applicable;
  2. A copy of the yacht`s International Tonnage Certificate where applicable;
  3. Application for Ship Radio Station Licence payment of initial registration fees and annual tonnage tax 


During provisional registration, the following documents need to be submitted to the Maltese Maritime Authority;

  1. Where there was previous ownership, a bill of sale or any other document by which the yacht was transferred to the applicant of registry otherwise a builder`s certificate in the name of the applicant ;
  2. Where applicable, cancellation of registry certificate issued by the Administration where the yacht was last documented ;
  3. Certificate of Survey and where applicable, a copy of the International Tonnage Certificate, issued by an Appointed Surveyor or by a Recognised Organisation;
  4. Evidence that the yacht has been marked in accordance with law.

Malta Commercial Yacht Code 

As outlined above, any Malta Commercial Yacht Registration shall concur with the requirements outlined in the Malta commercial yacht code legislation.  The Malta Commercial Yacht Code comprises the prerequisites for the commercial registration of yachts below 24 metres as well as yachts above 24 metres. The Malta Commercial Yacht Code`s format is a really straightforward and structural code which guides yacht owners in the process of Malta Yacht Registration. It even includes a list of reports and certificates which should be available onboard.

Due to the fact that Malta Commercial Yacht Registration has increased considerably over the recent years, the Malta Commercial Yacht Code has been recently reviewed. This was done after taking into consideration various feedback from the yachting industry and stakeholder. The Malta Commercial Yacht Code was reviewed with the intention to reflect the said growth and the onset of new technologies. Thus a number of user-friendly updates were applied to  the Malta Commercial Yacht Code including the following;

  1. The Survey and Certification Process has been made more user transparent, friendly and less time consuming;
  2. The Code includes also a mini-survey status with the surveys` due dates clearly indicated and accompanied by a Record of Equipment;
  3. Various requirements were reviewed and re-written to be more practical and user-friendly;
  4. Specifically to LY2, LY3 and 'Codice dell Noleggio' certified charter yachts transferring to the Malta Registry are being issued with an operational Commercial Yacht Code Certificate upon the initial application and thereafter given three months time to complete any necessary surveys and formalities.


Malta Commercial Yacht Registration: Benefits 

As regards manning requirements, registration is seen to on a case by case basis according to the circumstances involved. The Maltese Maritime Authority does not reserve any restraints based on the nationality of crew members and in fact, acknowledges training and certificates from highly regarded countries in this sector.

Indeed, the local coding legislation, together with the relative backing presented by the Maltese legal system, offers a great opportunity to yacht owners intending to register their vessel commercially under the Malta flag, not only because of the respect and esteem nurtured towards the Malta flag throughout recent years but also due to the fact that yacht owners are able to benefit from certain schemes and tax advantages.

A case in point is the payment of an annual tonnage tax which replaces the income tax, upon registration of the yacht. The companies administering the commercial yachts are exempt from income tax on any income resulting from the operation of such yachts. However to benefit from such favourable exemption, an annual tonnage tax based on the gross tonnage of the commercial yacht, and the annual registration fee need to be duly paid. In the case where a particular commercial yacht does not qualify to benefit from such income tax exemption, yacht financiers may still benefit of the low effective income tax rate of 5%. In addition, any foreign income tax incurred on such a yacht`s commercial operations would be available as a credit against the Maltese income tax, to the effect that the effective Maltese tax may even in certain cases be reduced to 0%.

In addition to the above benefits, yachts financiers registering their commercial yacht through Malta Commercial Yacht Registration also benefits from an efficient commercial yacht registration system, clear technical rules and low registration costs for commercial yacht.

Chetcuti Cauchi enjoys a sterling reputation in the areas of maritime practice with over than ten years of experience. The experienced Transport Law Practice Unit, within the firm, has been over the past years assisting clients, who want to enjoy the benefits offered under the Malta Commercial Yacht Registration, in the areas of yacht registration and incorporation of companies.


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