The Merchant Shipping Directorate in Malta has reviewed the guidelines for ascertaining the seaworthiness required in terms of article 12(a) of the Merchant Shipping Act for vessels that are registered as Maltese ships. As a result new guidelines that come into force from February 2016 have been published.
As a rule, merchant ships of 25 years and over will not be registered, while, applications for the registration of other ships will be considered subject to:
the ship being either in class or in the process of being classed with a recognized classification society;
the receipt of an up to date class survey status report or, information on the validity of the current statutory certificates including details of any pending recommendations, exemptions granted, acceptance of equivalents or otherwise, related to both class and statutory certificates;
the receipt of an affirmation by the relative class that the ship is in a position to be issued with all the appropriate statutory certificates without recommendations;
the receipt of appropriate information on the performance of the ISM managers that are to manage the ship.
Furthermore, registration of merchant ships of 15 years and over is also subject to the outcome of a prior inspection by an authorised flag State inspector; the Directorate may require the inspection to be carried out in dry-dock. When the Directorate allows the inspection to be carried out on registration only a non-operational provisional certificate of registry will be issued.
Ships of 10 years and over but less than 15 years shall also be presented for an inspection by an authorised flag State inspector within one month of registration. On payment of the relevant fees, owners may opt to have their ship inspected prior to registration.
A negative outcome of an inspection of a registered ship may lead to the immediate closure of registry.
The fee for pre-registration inspections, even when allowed to be carried out on registration shall be:
1. €500 on vessels of less than 24 metres without cargo carrying capacity issued or qualified to to be issued with a licence or permit to operate in terms of the Commercial Vessels Regulations;
2. €1,500 on non-propelled barges; and on vessels falling under category A.i (v) as provided in the First Schedule (Registration Fees) of the Merchant Shipping Act;
3. €3,000 on merchant ships owned or operated by companies that are owned and controlled as to more than 50 per cent by the same persons or by the same parent company that owns and controls shipping organisations that already own or operate more than 5 ships under the Malta flag;
4. €5,000 on merchant ships of 500 gross tons and over which do not fall under category 1, 2 or 3 above.
Payments must be made prior to the authorisation of the inspection. The pre-registration fees are a once only payment. However, unforeseen costs not covered by these amounts, such as higher inspection fees, travel expenses, supplementary inspections and so on will be charged separately. Ancillary costs which may arise as a result of these inspections will be additional to the stated pre-registration inspection fees.
It is emphasised that the final decision on the registration and seaworthiness of a vessel still remains at the discretion of the Directorate.