After taking into consideration a number of proposals made by the local flag administration and the importance to remain competitive in such an important industry, a number of amendments have been put forward to the Merchant Shipping Act (MSA), Chapter 234 of the Laws of Malta which, essentially, clarify a number of ambiguities which existed and also reflect current administrative practices.

Article 3(6) of the MSA deals with the suspension of certain conditions relating to survey and safety of ships already built, and to the declaration of ownership of a ship under construction where the builders have not yet affected delivery to the owners. The proposed amendment will seek to include the suspension of the bill of lading in respect of a sale of a ship under construction.

Article 19(3) provides the periods of validity of a certificate of registry. The amendment proposes that the certificate of registry of ships of 500 gross tonnage and over may be valid for a maximum period of five years, if the certificate of registry is issued at the expiry of the first twelve months. Currently, Article 19A of the MSA provides that a charterer may apply to the registrar of ships to have the certificate of registry issued in his name instead of in the name of the owner. The proposed amendment seeks to include the lessee who may also seek to apply for certificates in his own name, rather than in the name of the owner.

A new addition, Article 19B, shall now give the power to the owner, or registered mortgagee, to withdraw their consent where a certificate of registry has been issued in the name of the charterer or the lessee. In this case, the certificate will cease to have effect and must be surrendered by the charterer or lessee.

Article 26B shall now provide that even though ships with a non-operational certificate of registry shall not proceed to sea, a ship with a non-operational certificate may have a sea trial subject to authorisation by the Registrar. An amendment to Article 27(1) now provides that a certificate of registry will also cease to have effect where the registered owner fails to pay the relevant fees, such as the registration fees and any tonnage dues.

It has been suggested that Article 28A, which deals with the closure of the registry of ship after the judicial sale of the ship or pursuant to a sale by a mortgagee, should now provide that the interest of any registered mortgagee or any other creditor must be satisfied by the proceeds of the sale and shall no longer encumber the ship. This position would also be in line with the proposed Convention on the Judicial Sale of Ships, Hamburg 2014.

A new sub-article will be added to Article 32 which shall provide that, where the ownership of a ship is transferred by means of a merger or operation of the law, the new owner shall make a signed declaration indicating how the property has been transferred to him, together with supporting documentation.

Article 84H, dealing with the extension of the bareboat charter registration, shall now provide that at the request of the charterer or his agent, the Registrar may extend the registration for the remaining period of the charter or until the expiry of the underlying registry for a period not exceeding two years at a time. Article 84Q shall now provide that a ship registered in Malta may be registered in a foreign registry as a bareboat charter under a different name than that found in the Malta Registry, provided that the Registrar, the registered owners and the registered mortgagees give their consent.