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Malta offers ‘good value for money’ as a ship register

Date: 15/02/2012

There are several reasons “of equal importance” which make Malta an attractive ship register, according to Ann Fenech, managing partner of Fenech & Fenech Advocates and a leading shipping lawyer.

Dr Fenech was interviewed by The Times Business after Transport Minister Austin Gatt announced that Malta has become the largest ship register in Europe and the seventh largest in the world with 5,830 vessels – 45.6 million tonnes – registered under the Maltese flag.

Dr Fenech said Maltese service providers have left no stone unturned in ensuring that “we all offer good value for money”.

She added: “The regulator is a regulator who listens and is able to offer a 24 / 7 service. This is very important and must not be underestimated because when the financing of the vessel comes from the Americas or the Far East that means that the registration of the ship and the registration of the mortgage securing the financier’s interest must be registered outside normal Central European working hours. It may mean registering a vessel at 3 a.m. or at 11p.m. The Maltese Registry is available 24 / 7.”

Dr Fenech described the regulator – the Merchant Shipping Directorate at Transport Malta – as “a hands” on regulator, there to maintain standards, but also there to listen and understand. She said there is also quick access to the decision makers and therefore the turnaround time for a decision to be taken on a request made is very quick.

Another factor which makes Malta an attractive ship register, according to Dr Fenech, is that all procedures and documentation is carried out in English which facilitates transactions and avoids the need for authenticated and notarise translations. Malta’s membership of the European Union is another important aspect.

“Malta is today a European Union member and therefore an owner opting for a Malta flag is flying an EU flag which is important for a number of owners since it gives a sense of stability, safety and seriousness,” she said.

Dr Fenech said that “very importantly” mortgagees who would have put up the money for the purchase of the vessel are very well protected under Maltese law as has been proven time and time again especially in the recent economic crises.

“No bank or financier will agree to put up money for a vessel which will not be registered in a jurisdiction which if needs be, is there to protect and safeguard his interests. Coupled with the favourable law is the judiciary which has over the past few years delivered some very important judgements which have shown the stability of our legal system in this regard.”

Dr Fenech said the fact that Maltese law enables the owner to pay a set tax based on the tonnage of the vessel rather than tax on income – often referred to as the “tonnage tax regime” – is also important. However, she pointed out, so many other countries now have a tonnage tax regime that this cannot be the only reason why owners come to Malta.

Malta’s main competitors, she said, are those that come before us from position one to six, which includes Bahamas, Liberia and the Marshall Islands.

Dr Fenech added: “Then there are the competitors who are close to us but behind us such as Greece and Cyprus. There will always be competition and competition is healthy because it keeps us on our guard and it fuels that fire inside us to persevere and do better. If we did not have competition we would get too comfortable and our standards will start to slack.” Malta’s shipping register is “as varied as it can be”. From Oil tankers to sailing boats, from LNG Carriers to luxurious cruise ships, from oil rigs to super yachts, from bulk carriers to roro ships.

“We have every possible craft and vessel imaginable registered under the Malta flag. One important inroad made is the registration of cruise liners. Cruise liners were traditionally registered in the Bahamas however these lines started to show the wish to fly a European flag and we are very pleased that the Malta flag was chosen by many of them. This is another feather in the cap of Maritime Malta,” she said.



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