At present, the bill of statute for the implementation of EU legislation for 2017 is under review by Parliament and contains a long awaited – and for many feared – development.

Italy has always been a shipping country and the Italian flag covers a notable percentage of the world's tonnage. In recent times, this has mostly been thanks to the Italian International Registry.

The Italian International Registry was established by Statute 30 of February 27 1998. It provides a number of substantial fiscal advantages to shipowners, including the possibility of paying a lump sum tonnage tax. This has helped to keep the Italian flag competitive.

However, the European Commission recently established an EU pilot procedure against Italy to enquire into the nature of the advantages that Italy has made available to ships registered in the Italian International Registry. Following this, the risk of infringement proceedings was real and countermeasures became urgent.

The European Commission's message was taken on board and measures are now being discussed to amend national legislation so that it conforms to EU principles. As anticipated, the bill – which is issued annually to introduce EU legal developments into the Italian legal system – now includes a possible amendment to the 1998 statute to make the Italian International Registry's benefits available to Italian shipowners operating vessels that fly other EU flags.

While such a development could constitute an opportunity for Italy to attract new operators, a worry remains: many inefficiencies have been highlighted regarding the Italian International Registry and opening up its benefits to all EU-flagged ships operated from Italy could result in a migration of tonnage to more efficient registries, with a resulting negative impact on employment and revenues in general.

Once, and if, the above measures are introduced, competition will make the Italian International Registry's modernisation necessary and urgent.

This article was first published by the International Law Office, a premium online legal update service for major companies and law firms worldwide. Register for a free subscription.

For further information on this topic please contact Lawrence Dardani at Dardani Studio Legale by telephone (+39 010 576 1816) or email (lawrence.dardani@dardani.it). The Dardani Studio Legale website can be accessed at www.dardani.it.