The Merchant Shipping Act
Passed by Parliament in 1973, the Merchant Shipping Act today contains nearly 400 sections, and is divided in 10 parts. Numerous legal notices have been promulgated under the Act containing subsidiary legislation that deals with the various merchant shipping-related subjects. The Act and legal notices form together a comprehensive body of legislation that is at times both technical and also complex.
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
Within the Mediterranean, maritime navigation, trade and commerce have flourished under the influence of widely accepted and respected rules of maritime law, at times codified as the Consolato del Mare. Malta's maritime role has ensured that the study and practice of maritime law has flourished amongst the island's legal profession.
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.
Malta is a party to most of the major IMO and ILO International Maritime Conventions and Malta flagships are obliged to strictly adhere to the provisions of these international conventions.
ILO Conventions :
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