The Merchant Shipping Act
Foremost amongst the legal themes concerning the Maltese merchant fleet that are dealt with in the Act is the ‘registration of ships in Malta’. Maltese ships registered in terms of the Merchant Shipping Act are entitled to fly the Maltese Flag and entitled to enjoy the advantages presented under the Act, including international recognition and protection. The ‘Malta Flag’ formally came into existence in 1973, upon the promulgation of the Act – this has been, for Malta, a success story. The Act, in fact, was the firs t legislative step taken towards placing the Malta Flag on the world map. The Maltese merchant fleet is today the largest in Europe.
Backed by an old Established Legal Tradition
Indeed, it is this legal tradition which contribution to the formulation of the Maltese initiative at the 1967 United Nations General Assembly that culminated in the adoption of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Vessel registration under the Malta flag and the operation of the Maltese ships is regulated by the Merchant Shipping Act, a law based in the main on United Kingdom legislation, subsequently revised and amended in 1986, 1988, 1990 and 2000. These amendments introduced important measures for control, added safeguards for the financiers, thus making financing more attractive, and a bareboat charter registration.
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