Amendments To The Maltese Merchant Shipping Act

The Maltese draftsman has recently introduced changes to the Merchant Shipping Act (the "MSA"), Chapter 234 of the Laws of Malta, in force as from 1st July, 2016 in order to render more efficient and steamline the registration and bareboat registration of vessels in particular by adopting suggestions received by players in the market such as ship builders, ship owners and various service providers in the industry.

 Changes introduced by the MSA refer to:

1. The possibility of the shipowner of a vessel under construction not to produce a bill of sale until the construction or equipping of vessel is completed or until its delivery has been made. Prior to this amendment, a similar suspension was allowed only in respect of the survey to be carried on the ship and the submission of the declaration of ownership;

2. The possibility for vessels of 500 GT and over to obtain a Certificate of Registry as well as a Renewal Certificate for a period of up to five years. The validity of such Certificate remains subject to the payment of the annual registration fees by the anniversary of initial registration on an annual basis; ,

3. The possibility for the lessee to obtain a certificate of registry issued in his own name. Prior to such amendment, this option was only available to a vessel’s charterer under Section 19A of the MSA;

4. The possibility for the registered owner of a vessel and / or the registered mortgagee to withdraw their consent to the issuance of a certificate in the name of the charterer / lessee following which the certificate will not be valid;

5. The possibility for a vessel issued with a non-operational certificate to sail for the purposes of sea trials only;

6. The possibility for Transport Malta to declare the Certificate of Registry invalid in case of non-payment of relevant fees. This complements the grounds listed under Article 27 of the MSA under which a Certificate of Registry shall cease to have effect (i.e. expiry of validity of Certificate of Registration, closure of registry, substitution of a Certificate of Registration, suspension in accordance to MSA);

7. The possibility of changing the name of a Maltese ship registered in a foreign bareboat registry with the consent of the Registrar General, the registered owners and the registered mortgagees;

8. A provision to the effect that interests of any registered mortgagee or any other creditor of a vessel following its judicial sale or pursuant to a sale by a mortgagee pursuant to article 42(1)(b), shall pass onto the proceeds of the sale, thus effectively no longer encumbering the ship. This was already the position through an explicit reference in the Code of Civil Procedure and Organization (Chapter 12 of the Laws of Malta) in respect of the court approved sales of vessel instrument and in the MSA where a ship has been sold pursuant to an order or with the approval of a competent court within whose jurisdiction the vessel was at the time of the sale. However, this has now also been legislatively extended to the mortgagee exercising its rights in terms of law.

9. The obligation upon the shipowner where the ownership of a ship or share therein is transferred following a merger or by operation of law, to make and sign a declaration indicating the manner in which and the person to whom the property has been transferred to and such declaration; and that such declaration shall be accompanied by documentary evidence that may be required by the registrar.

For further information on the amendments introduced to the Maltese Merchant Shipping Act please do not hesitate to contact us at