Maritime and Aviation

Ship Registration – The Maltese flag

portomaso_harbourThe Maltese shipping industry relies on a highly regulated jurisdiction and has access to a number of international maritime conventions (including INMARSAT, TONNAGE 1969, LL 66/88, CLC and FUND 92, STCW 78, MARPOL 73/78, SOLAS, various International Labour Organizations Conventions). Maltese legislation features a comprehensive set of rules on mortgages and also provides for a number of tax planning opportunities for shipping activities, inlcuding management and financing.

Registration of a ship under the Maltese flag is relatively straightforward and cost effective. Registration is regulated by the Transport Malta (TM) and registration is open to vessels owned by Maltese and non-Maltese owners. In practice any kind of vessel may be registered including a vessel under construction.

Bareboat charter registration (both inwards and outwards) is also allowed, and the certificate of registry may be issued in the  name of the vessel’s charterer (including a time charterer).

Registration of a vessel under the Maltese flag is open to:

  • any Maltese and other European Union citizen; or
  • any company registered in Malta or in the EU; or
  • a non-EU body corporate or entity which is capable of ensuring due observance of the laws of Malta relating to registration.

Aircraft registration in Malta

biz_jet01The Aircraft Registration Act joins other legislative packages in ensuring that Malta continues developing as a premier jurisdiction for international commercial, estate planning and financial activity. Malta’s established reputation as a solid jurisdiction for ship finance, can now be extended to asset finance in general, as well as aircraft finance in particular. Being a modern and sophisticated law which besides regulating aspects of aircraft registration, ownership, nationality, aircraft mortgages, special privileges and related matters, it introduces innovative concepts with the sole purpose of establishing a more competitive aircraft register.

Through this new modern approach Malta, also basing itself upon the extensive experience acquired in the financial services sector, an area which has seen Malta acquire international recognition for its success, is now extending to the aviation sector. Malta does not only seek to offer attractive fiscal benefits (consisting mainly in a Tax Refunds and Participation Exemption regime) asbut offers the benefit of a good network of Double Taxation Agreements coupled with solid service levels. Furthermore, Maltese tax legislation contains special rules aimed at facilitating cross-border aircraft operations including financing.

Malta also offers the added advantage that it forms part of the Euro zone which eliminates exchange control issues between participant jurisdictions.

Malta’s ratification of the Cape Town Convention clearly facilitates the process of acquiring and financing aircraft. In a nutshell the current Maltese Aviation law regime recognizes and adopts all known legal mechanism and techniques required to establish itself as a premier aviation services jurisdiction:

  • recognition of fractional ownership of aircraft, as well as the possibility of establishing segregated cells within aviation undertakings;
  • a civil law juridsdiction with its own consolidated trusts law, with a consolidated and mature professional trustee market;
  • it is also possible to register an aircraft under construction;
  • the possibility for non EU interests to register aircraft not engaged in air services, provided that a resident agent is appointed;
  • international qualification to register aircraft, via operators based in Malta or the EU;
  • irrevocable de-registration and export powers of attorney and other special powers of attorney granted as security to financiers etc., will be recognized and may be entered into the register
  • aircraft form separate and distinct assets within the estate of their owners for the security of actions and claims to which the aircraft is subject. In case of bankruptcy of the owner of an aircraft, all actions and claims, to which the aircraft may be subject, shall have preference over all other debts of the owner’s estates;
  • preservation of special privileges or reservation of title of aircraft on accessories of aircraft
  • aircraft mortgages fully recognized and enforceable, with full self-help remedies available to the mortgagee
  • mortgagee and other holders of a security interest are protected even when the aircraft ceases to be registered in Malta. The Registrar is empowered to communicate independently with the mortgagee or holder of any security interest to take all action required, including granting extensions for the validity of relevant registrations, the orderly closure of the registry and enforcement of the mortgage or other security interest, and the safe operation of the aircraft.