Under Maltese law, all sorts of vessels can be registered under the Malta flag, hence the type of vessel which may be considered for registration can vary and amongst others may include yachts, oil rigs, and also vessels under construction. Nonetheless, a vessel is admitted under the Malta Flag only if it satisfies a number of eligibility requirements, one of which relates to seaworthiness. In a few words, seaworthiness relates to the condition of the vessel and its capability or suitability of transporting cargo on a voyage conducted under the terms of a contract.
With respect to seaworthiness, the Maltese Merchant Shipping Directorate has issued a Notice to all stakeholders, namely ship operators, owners and managers amongst others. This Notice shall enter into force on the 1st of February 2016. The Directorate states that is has recently revised a set of guiding principles concerning the determination of seaworthiness as provided for by the Merchant Shipping Act.
Generally, vessels which are 25 years of age or over will not be registered under the Malta Flag, although applications which are sent to the Directorate for other ships will be taken into consideration if one of the following requirements is fulfilled by the prospective vessel. Notably, a ship would have to be categorised into a particular class in a classification society or if such categorisation is being contemplated, registration would also be considered. A ship may also be entitled to be registered if a receipt containing suitable data regarding the conduct of ISM Managers, is submitted. Additionally, a ship may be considered for registration if a receipt indicating the most recent class survey status report or if comprehensive details relating to the legitimacy of the current statutory certificates are submitted to the Directorate. Such receipt may also contain details regarding any unsettled recommendations. Furthermore, a ship may be admitted to the Register if a receipt confirms that the ship is ready to be issued with all the necessary statutory certificates, without recommendations.
Moreover, less stringent rules apply for merchant ships which have reached the age of 15 years or over. Prior to registration a thorough assessment has to be carried out by an inspector approved by the flag State. Notably, if an assessment is executed on registration, then the Directorate will grant the ship owner an inoperative interim certificate. Similarly, ships of 10 years and over but not less than 15 years shall also be subject to the same assessment within a time span of a month from the date of registration. Alternatively, an assessment may be carried out prior to the registration.
As expected, the Directorate provides for a number of fees, also known as pre-registration fees, which must be forwarded to the Directorate before conducting the assessments on the said ships. Nonetheless, a number of other expenses, such as travel costs and other extras must be taken into account. Final decisions are taken by the Director and are considered to be discretionary in nature.