Flying the Malta Flag: A brief insight into Malta's successful commercial yacht code

Friday 01 September 2017

By Chris Cini, Legal Counsel, Equiom Malta

Malta is well established as a jurisdiction of choice for registering commercial yachts. The third edition of the Commercial Yacht Code, introduced in 2015 provides improved, high quality standards for safety, pollution and crew welfare together with technical guidelines.

The following is a summary of the salient features of the Code:

  1. It covers yachts intended for commercial operation having a length overall greater or equal to 15 metres and which do not carry more than 12 passengers. There is no tonnage limit imposed on yachts in commercial use wanting to register under the Maltese flag.
  2. All types of yachts can be registered as a commercial yacht under the Maltese flag, including historical and training yachts.
  3. Upon the satisfactory completion of the designated survey and inspections, a yacht complying with the standards set out in the Code will be issued with a Certificate of Compliance to Trade as a Commercial Yacht (COC).
  4. Malta recognises all leading classification societies including American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), Bureau Veritas (BV), Lloyd's Register (LR) and Registro Italiano Navale (RINA). New yachts over 24 metres in length are to be built to the requirements and standards of a recognised classification society as duly authorised by the Maltese administration for the issue of statutory certificates. Yachts below 24 metres in length do not require to be classed.
  5. Yachts already certified under MCA LY2/LY3 and the Italian Regolamento di Sicurezza per il Noleggio will be issued with a three-month provisional COC, which would have the same navigation range as the existing certification, pending the completion of the initial surveys as prescribed in the Code.
  6. The COC is valid for five years. For yachts greater than or equal to 24m in length, annual surveys must be carried out during the five-year validity period of the COC. For yachts below 24m in length, intermediate surveys need to be carried out between the second and third year from the initial/renewal anniversary date. All surveys must be carried out by a recognised organisation or by an appointed surveyor.
  7. In case of existing yachts which may not comply with certain sections of the Code, the Registrar-General may give consideration to proposals made by the Owners/Managers to phase in the necessary requirements within a timescale not exceeding 12 months.
  8. The Code lays out a clear detailed list of statutory certificates that are required to be issued for commercial yachts registered under the Maltese Flag on the basis of each yacht’s length and gross tonnage. Such a list is a helpful assistance for owners and captains in ensuring that they hold the required certification on board.
  9. Requirements introduced by the Maritime Labour Convention (2006) for accommodation, recreational facilities and medical stores have been incorporated in the Code and adapted to the yachting industry.
  10. It lays out minimum safe manning requirements and the minimum level of crew certification. There are no restrictions on the nationality of the crew and Malta recognises certification from the most reputable training establishments and countries. All commercial yachts greater or equal to 24 metres in length are issued with a Minimum Safe Manning Certificate.
  11. All yachts greater than or equal to 500 GT are required to comply with the International Safety Management (ISM) Code and the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.
  12. Pleasure yachts which voluntarily comply (as far as practicable) with the standards of the Code may request to be issued with a Statement of Compliance with the Code. This will ease the process of conversion from private to commercial, should this ever be considered.

The Maltese Commercial Yacht Code is widely accepted and internationally recognised by the maritime industry. It presents favourable standards for different-sized yachts with the added benefit of registering under one of the most reputable flags: the Maltese flag.


To find out more about registering a commercial yacht under the Malta flag or the Maltese Commercial Yacht Code, please contact Chris Cini.