Malta, a member of the European Union, located in the heart of the Mediterranean has developed one of the most reputable ship registers in the world, having the largest ship register in Europe and offering a wide array of international maritime services. Although previously notoriously known as a flag of convenience, the Malta flag has today become a flag of choice that many seek out as their main and first choice of flag.
The Malta Ship Register was launched in the mid-1970s, although maritime tradition in Malta dates back thousands of years. The Malta Ship Register faced a great deal of criticism following the ‘Erika’ disaster in 1999, when a twenty-five year old single-hull oil tanker flying the Maltese flag broke into two and polluted hundreds of kilometres of French coastline, rendering the incident one of the worst environmental disasters in maritime history. Such incident motivated the Maltese government to adopt stricter legislative and regulatory procedures with respect to the registration of ships in Malta.
Three packages were drawn up by the European Commission, following the incident. The Erika 1 package underlined the inadequacies in the Maltese maritime system, increased control in ports, supervised the activities of classification societies and provided for the elimination of single-hull tankers. The Erika II package founded a European maritime safety agency, increased safety in maritime traffic, provided for the prevention of pollution by ships and advanced schemes relating to liability and compensation for damages created by pollution. The Erika III package catered for stepping up the maritime system of Malta to reflect international standards, in line also with EU legislation.
The Malta Ship Register provides registered ships with a wide variety of benefits, both of a financial nature and otherwise. The Malta Flag is on the White List and Low Risk Ship List of the Paris Mou and provides attractive incentives to owners, registered charterers and financiers of Maltese yachts and vessels. Affording a progressive reduction in registration and tonnage tax costs for younger yachts and vessels, the Malta Flag does not impose any nationality restrictions on the masters, officers and crew and furthermore, there are no trading restrictions, hidden costs and inspection fees. The Malta Flag is very active in European Union fora and international organisations and has a clear strategic political vision supporting business and the maritime industry. Besides being a well organised and highly responsible flag administration, the Malta Flag provides a whole range of maritime services, including very reputable and experienced legal and corporate services supporting registration, management and administration.