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Sail with Confidence: Register Your Ship with Ease!


Zampa Debattista’s Ship and Yacht registration team has a decade long experience in ship and yacht registration under the Malta flag assisting a wide portfolio of shipping clients which includes financiers, private banks, ship owners and ship management companies.

Zampa Debattista provides assistance with the tax planning and implementation of tailor made structures designed to accommodate the needs of shipping clients including ship and yacht registration, company set-up and formation, assistance with sale and purchase transactions, review of standard forms from the initial laying of the keel until the entry in possession of the ship, endorsement of seafarers, assistance with technical matters before Transport Malta and closure of registry.

The selection of the right flag is a fundamental step requiring a thorough consideration of different operational, legal and technical factors. Zampa Debattista’s expertise in Malta flag registration and its tax expertise ensures a plain sailing registration process for both ship owners, managers and other key stakeholders involved in the process.

Introduction to the Maltese Islands

Malta’s tradition as a Maritime hub made the eight pointed crossed flag as one of the leading and most recognizable features across our seas, oceans, ports and marinas proudly representing over 86 million gross tonnage and hundreds of owners operating under the highest technical and safety standards.

The Malta flag is a global point of reference for ship owners, ship managers and financiers thanks to its robust legal framework which is capable of balancing interests of all stakeholders without compromising on safety, the protection of environment and safeguard of seafarers’ interests.

Since the enactment of the Merchant Shipping Act in 1973, Malta created a solid regulatory framework aimed at attracting the most reputable shipping players onto its shores by making Malta the largest flag in Europe and 6th worldwide in terms of registered tonnage.


Malta Flag Statistics as of 31.12.2022

No. Registered Vessel: 9336

No. of Registered Yacht: 1058

Average Age: 11.9 years


What type of ownership structures can be used to register a ship under the Malta flag?

Any legal person may register a ship under the Malta flag, however, non-Maltese entities would need to appoint a Resident Agent. There are no restrictions with respect to the nationality of shareholders, directors of a Maltese shipping organization.

EU, EEA, Swiss and UK citizens may also register ships in their own name, subject to the appointment of a Maltese Resident Agent, if not resident in Malta.

What is the role of the Resident Agent?

The role of the Resident Agent is to:

  • act as the channel of communication between the international owner and the Maltese government departments and authorities;
  • sign and file with Maltese government departments and authorities, on behalf of the international owner, declarations and forms required in terms of Maltese law;
  • act as the judicial representative of the international owner for judicial proceedings in Malta, and for the purposes of the Act, any official notice sent to the Resident Agent at his last registered address shall be deemed to have been duly received by and notified to the international owner.

What are the benefits of registering a ship in Malta?

There are multiple advantages, in particular:

  1. Pro-creditor environment with a reliable protection granted to ship financiers and creditors.

Mortgagees enjoy a high ranking interest secured by an executive title in the creditors’ hands enforceable upon debtor’s default without the need of a court judgment or similar order.

  • The registration of subsequent mortgages or the transfer and deletion of a vessel can only occur with the mortgagee’s prior written consent; and in case of deletion the mortgage would still attach to the vessel;
  • Mortgagee may also apply for any extensions, pay fees and do all is necessary to maintain the ship validly registered;
  • Mortgages attach to any proceeds from any indemnity as well as any insurance proceeds;
  • Mortgages may also be registered in favour of a security trustee when acting under a trust for the benefit of person(s) or a syndicate of creditors.


  1. Competitive company formation and ship registration fees (with a progressive reduction in registration costs for younger ships);
  2. Attractive tonnage tax fee structure extendable also to non-Maltese registered vessels;
  3. Tonnage Tax rules applicable also to ships and management entities;
  4. Tax exemption on a shipping organisation’s profits or gains derived from the sale of a ship if this was acquired and sold whilst under the tonnage tax regime or from the transfer of any purchase right if the ship, when delivered or completed, could qualify under the tonnage tax rule;
  5. A wide network of OECD based double taxation agreements and bilateral maritime related treaties;
  6. One of the most competitive social security rates across the EU;
  7. Malta is included on the white list of both Paris and Tokyo MOU and is a party to major international conventions;
  8. A wide local community of maritime trained legal and accounting experts;
  9. An industry characterized by a mutual and constant dialogue between the public/private sector;
  10. English versatile network of professionals such as surveyors, lawyer, accountants and auditors.
  11. Wide network of government appointed maritime surveyors familiar with Malta flag requirement;
  12. Benefit from EU Cabotage and no navigational or trading restrictions;
  13. Expedited procedures with respect to crew acknowledgement certification process;
  14. Flag administration available 24/7 for registrations and emergencies regarding vessels;
  15. Customer oriented flag administration highly involved in discussions at IMO and European level and other international fora;

What type of ships can be registered under the Malta Flag?

There are no particular limitations as to the type of ships that can be registered under the Malta flag. These include amongst other seagoing vessels, yachts, oil rigs, research vessels and ships under construction.

While ships aged between 10 – 15 years must carry out a survey inspection one month prior or after provisional registration, vessels between 20-24 years must undergo a pre-registration survey in order to be admitted under the Malta flag. Vessels above the age of 25 may be registered under the Malta flag only under exceptional circumstances.

What is the procedure to obtain a Certificate of Registry?

Upon registration a ship is issued with provisional certificate of registration which is valid for six months (and extendible for a further period or periods not exceeding in the aggregate six months), during which all documentation needs to be submitted to obtain a Permanent Certificate of registry.

Are there restrictions with respect to seafarers’ nationality serving onboard a Maltese registered ship?

No there are no restrictions with respect to seafarers’ nationality serving onboard Maltese ships.

Do seafarers engaged onboard a Malta registered ship require to hold Flag State Endorsements and Seaman book?

Seafarers serving onboard Maltese registered ships need to obtain an endorsement in their name while all other national seaman book, certificate of competency and ancillary certificates will be recognised by the flag state.

Why Zampa Debattista to register your Ship?

Zampa Debattista can handle the whole registration process of all types of vessels.

Our services comprise of:

  • Ship and Yacht registration and renewal of all vessel’s certificates;
  • Provision of Resident Agent Services;
  • Assistance with Bareboat Charter In and Out registration;
  • Assistance with technical matters related to vessel operation;
  • Assistance with sale and purchase transactions (review and drafting of sale and purchase agreements, participation to closing meetings etc.);
  • Assistance with seafarers certification and enrollment with Maltese social security system;
  • Company Formation including the set-up of Shipping Cell Companies;
  • Assistance with the post-set up company administration services;
  • Company Accounting and Payroll services;
  • Audit
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Stephan Piazza

Transport & Legal

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