Malta has maintained its top ranking as Europe’s largest shipping register – a position that it gained in 2011 when it overtook Greece and Cyprus. While ship registration has given the country a firm foothold in the maritime business, Malta has developed into a globally respected centre that provides a full suite of support services to ship owners and operators, and attracts clients from as far away as Asia and Latin America.
With a tradition rooted in shipbuilding and repair, the island has responded to emerging business streams in areas such as ship finance, litigation and, more recently, in maritime security. Future plans include the construction of a dedicated maritime park that will host a range of technical and commercial service providers, paving the way for further expansion.
Malta’s shipping sector represents an important source of national revenue. In its entirety, the maritime industry contributes as much as 14 per cent to Malta’s GDP. Traditional maritime-related activities in tourism, fishing and ship registration employ some 20,000 people. In fact, ship registration is today the main engine of growth in Malta’s maritime sector. The register was only opened in 1973 but has grown rapidly since then. The register and tonnage have doubled in the past 15 years, with Malta overtaking Greece and Cyprus to top the rankings as Europe’s largest in the past three years.
Today over 6,600 vessels sail under the Maltese Flag, with 57.9 million tons of shipping at the end of 2014. As only one of two open registers in the EU, registration is available to vessels owned by Maltese and non-Maltese persons, and in practice, any kind of vessel may be registered, including one under construction.
Transport Malta, the regulator of the maritime industry, goes to great lengths to emphasise that Malta’s flag is one of confidence and not convenience. The island’s status as an EU member state, its state-of-the-art maritime framework and the excellent safety records of Malta-flagged ships have helped it to be officially classified as a low-risk flag. With an emphasis on quality, ships over 25 years old will not be accepted on the register. The island now has one of the youngest fleets in the world.
The island’s regulations are also a big part of Malta’s attraction to yacht owners. Over the past ten years, the global luxury superyacht market has expanded beyond all expectations, and the development of a new yacht code has made the registration of commercial and pleasure yachts, including superyachts (vessels over 24 metres in length), in Malta very attractive. More than 450 superyachts are already registered on the island.
In parallel with its strong shipping register, Malta has also cultivated world-class support services to provide the best possible facilities and expertise for ship owners, financers and operators who choose to become a part of Malta’s rich maritime industry. The island is home to a premier maritime cluster, including excellent yacht marinas, cargo port facilities, and shipbuilding and repair services, in addition to a wide range of finance, law, insurance and management facilities.
Developing the Blue Economy
The unique combination of location, stability, quality and an excellent customer service has made Malta’s shipping sector such a success, and this trend is expected to continue. Malta continues to represent the interests of the maritime industry on the international stage also, leading the way on a number of issues like maritime security in the face of the growing problem of piracy. With a growing international finance sector, Malta should also see future opportunities arising in banking and insurance related to the maritime industry. In addition, significant growth is expected to stem from the wider maritime-support industry. The island plans to develop an area of 172,000 square metres into a Maritime Services Park offering office space, workshops and ancillary infrastructure.