Owners, charterers and financiers of Maltese ships may benefit from highly favourable tax rates on profits derived from the ownership, sale, operation and charter of Maltese ships.

• There is complete exemption in Malta from stamp duties payable on the sale or transfer of a ship and the allotment of any share or stock of a company owning such a ship, exchange control, capital gains tax or VAT. • There are no restrictions on the sale or transfer of shares of a company owning Maltese ships. • There are no restrictions on the sale and mortgaging of Maltese ships • There are no restrictions on the nationality of the Master, officers and crew of vessels registered under the Malta flag. • Maltese ships benefit from preferential treatment in certain ports. • It is possible to register vessels which are still under construction as well as other marine structures which do not fall within the strict definition of ships such as oilrigs, floating docks, pontoons and barges

Malta becomes the largest ship registry in Europe

January 2012

In a press conference about the Malta Maritime Register, Transport Minister Austin Gatt declared that for the first time in its maritime history, Malta has become the largest ship register in Europe. Being the seventh largest in the world, Malta has increased its tonnage by 16 per cent last year over 2010.

A contributing factor to Malta’s success as an international sound ship register is the diversity of vessel listings, to include cruise liners and super yachts. Secondly, the minster continued to state that Malta’s competitiveness is not solely about setting the right financial conditions but on a clear focus to further increase the high-level of service provided. This in turn attracted reputable companies. He added that applicants had to pass through a rigorous selection process and not every ship-owner who expressed interest in joining the register was accepted.

Some facts

  • Although the smallest European country, Malta has the seventh largest ship register in the world.
  • By 2011, 5,830 vessels – a total of 46.6 million tonnes were registered under the Maltese flag.
  • Some 300 super yachts were registered on Malta's register by last year when there was an increase of 19 per cent over 2010.
  • The condition and the age of applicant vessels were a major factor in the determination of whether or not they would make it to the register.

Why register under a Maltese Flag?

Some benefits include:

  • Strategically located between the cross roads of Europe and Africa, Malta has a strong maritime history and is ideal for establishing international trade and commerce. In addition, Malta has a serious and efficient maritime administration and actively participates in international shipping fora.
  • High-level quality administrative services with twenty four hours, seven days a week service in respect of urgent matters and flag state inspectorate that ensures adherence to international standards.
  • Vessels may be registered in the name of legally constituted corporate bodies or entities irrespective of nationality, or by European Union citizens
  • Low company formation, ship registration and tonnage tax costs; progressive reduction in registration and tonnage tax costs for younger ships
  • Attractive incentives to owners, registered charterers and financiers of Maltese ships of over 1,000 net tonnage; these incentives may also be extended to smaller ships
  • No restrictions on the nationality of the master, officers and crew
  • No restrictions on the sale or transfer of shares of a company owning Maltese ships
  • No restrictions on the sale and mortgaging of Maltese ships
  • No trading restrictions and, preferential treatment to Maltese ships in certain ports
  • Malta is an international maritime centre providing the whole range of maritime services.


No. of Ships Over 1,505
Tonnage 28,170,010 grt
Age Limit No restriction but special survey requirements for vessels over 20 years old.
Size Restrictions None.
Ownership Requirements The ship must be wholly owned by a Maltese citizen and/or a company incorporated according to the laws of Malta and having a place of business in Malta. Registration of a body corporate in Malta is a simple procedure with no nationality requirements as to shareholders or directors.
Documents Required For provisional registration (for 6 months) :- 
  • application for registration; 
  • application for a change of name (if required); 
  • declaration of ownership and proof of eligibility (including Memorandum and Articles of Company); 
  • evidence of seaworthiness (normally class certificates); 
  • evidence of the payment of initial registration fees and annual registration fees for the first year of registration; 
  • copy of the ship’s international tonnage certificate.
  • For permanent registration (within the provisional period):- 
  • bill of sale or builder's certificate; 
  • certificate of deletion of the ship from the previous registry (if applicable); 
  • the carving and marking note; 
  • list of crew and copies of the officer's certificates of competence; 
  • copies of the load line certificates; 
  • certificate of survey; 
  • application for ship station licence; 
  • radio installation survey report.
Registration Fees There is an Initial Registration Fee of M£0.1 per nrt for the first 8,000 tons (minimum M£50) and M£0.03 for each additional nrt thereafter. There is an Annual Fee of M£0.15 per nrt for the first 8,000 tons (minimum fee M£75) with a reducing scale thereafter.
Approved Classification Societies ABS, BV, DNV, GL, HRS, LRS, NKK, RINA KRS (full recognition). ZC, CRS, PRS, RRS (partial recognition).
Crew Nationality There are no restrictions on the nationality of the Master, officers and crew - although if Maltese crew are not employed the above registration fees will be increased slightly. Maltese certificates of competence are issued but any foreign certificates granted after an examination will normally be treated as equivalent.
Parallel Registration Parallel registration in or out of the Maltese flag is permitted.
Flag of Convenience Yes.
Type of Mortgage An account current or principal and interest statutory mortgage form is required and will need to be registered at the Shipping Registry. There will normally be a separate Deed of Covenants which need not be registered at the Shipping Registry. Under current Maltese legislation the mortgage does not need to be registered against a Maltese owning company itself but has to be executed in Malta.
Mortgage Registration Fee M£50.
Useful Addresses

Merchant Shipping Directorate
Malta Maritime Authority
Maritime House
Lascaris Wharf
Valletta VLT 01
Tel: +356 250360
Fax: +356 241460

Company Formation:
Registrar of Companies
Registry of Companies
Malta Financial Services Centre
Notabile Road, Attard
Tel: +356 441155
Fax: +356 441195

  •  Note that ships having an nrt in excess of 1,000 are "exempted ships", the owners of which will be exempt from income tax etc. 
  • This period may be extended to 1 year upon application.