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Marine accidents

Collision and pollution

What rules and procedures (under both domestic and international law) apply to the prevention of, liability for and remedy of:

(a) Collision?

The prevention of collisions is regulated in Malta through the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Collisions) Regulations (SL 234.20), which give full effect in Malta to the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972. Such regulations will apply to all Maltese ships and all other ships entering into Maltese waters.

(b) Oil pollution?

Malta has given effect to the International Convention for Pollution from Ships 1973, as amended, through the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Regulations 2004 (SL 234.32). Moreover, Annexes IV and VI, relating to the prevention of pollution by sewage and air pollution, respectively, have been implemented in Malta through SL 234.47 and SL 234.33, respectively.

The Oil Pollution (Liability and Compensation) Act 1999 (Chapter 412 of the Laws of Malta) gave effect to the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage 1969, as amended by the 1992 Protocol, as well as the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage 1971, as amended by the 1992 Protocol.

The Merchant Shipping (Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage) Regulations 2009 (SL 234.46) gave effect to the Bunkers Convention 2001.

(c) Other environmental damage caused by a ship?

Maltese registered vessels and any vessels that enter a Maltese port must comply with anti-fouling legislation in terms of EU law. 


What is the legal regime governing salvage and general average?

Although Malta is not a party to the International Convention on Salvage 1989, relevant provisions have been included in the Merchant Shipping Act 1973 (Chapter 234 of the Laws of Malta).

There are no provisions concerning the general average.

Wreck removal

What rules and procedures apply to the removal of wrecks in your jurisdiction?

Following ratification of the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks 2007, this has been implemented under Maltese law by virtue of the Merchant Shipping (Wreck Removal Convention) Regulations (SL 234.53). The convention also applies to vessels located within the territorial waters of Malta.

Under what circumstances can the authorities order removal of wreckage?

If a wreck is located on or near the Maltese coast and the shipping minister believes that it is or is likely to become an obstruction or danger to navigation, he or she may take possession of, remove or destroy the wreck, or selling the wreck and any property recovered from it in order to be reimbursed for the expenses related to wreck removal, subject to any surplus of funds being held for the benefit of those persons entitled thereto (Section 339 of the Merchant Shipping Act).

Places of refuge

What framework governs access to places of refuge for ships in distress?

This framework is included in the Vessel Traffic Monitoring and Reporting Requirements Regulations (SL 499.34). The competent authority in this respect is the Maritime Pollution Prevention and Control Unit within the Authority for Transport in Malta.

In addition, the EU Operational Guidelines on Places of Refuge and International Maritime Organisation circulars are applied by the Maritime Pollution Prevention and Control Unit.

Marine security

Legal regime

What regime governs the imposition of security measures on ships and in port facilities?

Security measures are imposed based on:

  • the Merchant Shipping (Safety Convention) Rules (Subsidiary Legislation (SL) 234.30);
  • the Merchant Shipping (Safe Manning and Watch Keeping) (SL 234.31);
  • the Merchant Shipping (Safety Convention Rules) (SL 234.33);
  • the Merchant Shipping (Safe Operation of Regular Ro-Ro Ferry and High-Speed Passenger Craft Services) Regulations (SL 234.35);
  • the Merchant Shipping (Ship Inspection and Survey Organisations) Regulations (SL 234.37);
  • the Merchant Shipping (Port State Control) Regulations (SL 234.38); and
  • the Merchant Shipping (Accident and Incident Safety Investigation) Regulations (SL 234.49).

Security officers

What rules apply to the qualification and conduct of security officers on ships and in port facilities? Are armed guards allowed on ships?

The qualification and conduct of security officers on board Maltese-flagged ships and in port facilities are regulated through the Merchant Shipping (Safe Manning and Watch Keeping) Regulations (SL 234.351) and the Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) Regulations (SL 234.54).

All persons employed or engaged on board a Maltese ship that falls under the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code should have security familiarisation and undergo thorough security awareness training. Seafarers and port facility security officers with designated security duties should have a certificate of proficiency proving such training.

Under the code, armed guards are allowed on ships only if the flag state so allows. In Malta, this is regulated by the General Authorisations (Protective Security Measures on Board Ships) Regulations 2013 (Legal 19 of 2013). These regulations regulate the carriage and use of firearms and ammunition on board of Maltese ships by privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP). Ship owners wishing to place such personnel on board their ships must seek the flag's prior authorisation. Authorisation should be accompanied by a voyage plan and a crew list for the duration of the stay of the PCASP on board the vessel.

Security information

What rules govern the provision of security information to port authorities?

The provision of security information to port authorities is governed by the Merchant Shipping (Port State Control) Regulations (SL 234.38), which apply to any ship and its crew calling at a port in Malta or anchored off such a port to engage in a ship-port interface. 


Mandatory coverage

What maritime risks must be covered under the law and what is the mandatory level of coverage?

The Merchant Shipping (Insurance For Maritime Claims) Regulations (Subsidiary Legislation 234.50) adopt measures contained in the EU Directive on the Insurance of Ship Owners for Maritime Claims (2009/20/EC).

These regulations will apply to ships of 300 gross tonnage or more, and do not apply to warships, auxiliary warships or government ships used for non-commercial purposes.

Maritime risks to be covered are all those claims subject to limitation under the Merchant Shipping (Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims) Regulations.

Insurable risks and ships

What other risks are typically covered by marine insurance contracts concluded in your jurisdiction and what ships are insurable?

Insurance contracts are generally concluded outside Malta and these are usually entered into with the P&I Club or the Hull Club in accordance with the insured interest. 

Subrogation rights

What is the legal regime governing marine insurers’ subrogation rights?

Subrogation is governed by the Civil Code (Articles 1164-1167, Chapter 16 of the Laws of Malta). Subrogation must be expressly made by agreement or ipso iure by operation of the law.

These two forms of subrogation apply against both sureties and debtors, but will not operate to the prejudice of the creditor when it has been paid only in part. In any case, the creditor may claim the balance due to it in preference to the person from whom it has received part payment.

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