All ship registrations in Malta and the provision of related services are regulated by The Merchant Shipping Act Malta, under the auspices of the Transport Ministry which is responsible for maritime affairs.
The Act contains some 400 different sections and was first approved by the Maltese Parliament in 1973.
Malta’s Merchant Shipping Act is based on United Kingdom shipping and maritime legislation, and since it came into effect several legal notices and changes to regulations have been made to reflect the changing nature of maritime affairs in 1986, 1988, 1990 and 2000.
The Merchant Shipping Directorate is headed by the Chief Officer responsible for Merchant Shipping. In the eyes of the law, the Chief Officer is also the Registrar-General of Shipping and Seamen.
Malta has one of the largest and most respected shipping registries in the world and is the largest in Europe in terms of tonnage. As of end 2018, the registry had registered 77.2 Gross Tons of Shipping, increasing by 2.7 percent on the previous year.
This was comprised of a total of 8,286 vessels with an average age of 13 years in service. Apart from being responsible for registration of vessels, the Merchant Shipping Directorate is also responsible for all matters relating to merchant shipping. This includes enforcement, regulation, control and administration duties. The Directorate is also responsible for certification of seafarers, Malta’s relations in the international shipping sector as well as administering and implementing international maritime conventions and agreements.
Ships which are registered under the Maltese Merchant Shipping Act can fly the Maltese flag, which provides international recognition and protection.
Malta’s rich history in the maritime sector
With its position at the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, it is no surprise that Malta has strong maritime traditions, going back thousands of years to the time of oars, wind and sail.
With one of the deepest natural harbours in the world, Malta became an integral hub in the merchant shipping world.
Malta has always complied with the law of the sea, and in 1982, the United Nations adopted the Maltese initiative that became The Convention on the Law of the Sea, which ensures that the world’s seas and oceans are regarded as common heritage.
Malta is a signatory to the vast majority of International Maritime Organisation and International Labour Organisation Maritime Conventions.
Malta prides itself on being a shipping flag of confidence and strictly ensures that all Malta flagged vessels adhere to the provisions of local laws and regulations as well as internationally recognised conventions. In order to be able to do this, the Merchant Shipping Directorate has its own inspectorate to ensure that Malta flagged vessels act in accordance with all standards expected of them.
Malta maintains a 24-hour, seven days per week service related to Maritime Affairs, which incorporates all Merchant Shipping inquiries.