Brexit has given rise to a new opportunity for the Malta Ship Registry to consolidate its position as the largest flag in Europe, and the sixth-largest in the world, according to Fenech & Fenech Advocates Associate Peter Grima.
In his latest contribution to the International Law Office (ILO), he explains that even prior to Britain’s official departure from the EU on 1st January, uncertainty surrounding the situation led many vessels and yachts to leave the United Kingdom’s shipping registry.
Many of these ships that left UK registers, Dr Grima writes, instead registered on the Maltese register.
For example, French Shipping Giant CMA CGM, which was at the time the largest owner of container ships under the UK flag, reflagged the majority of its fleet to Malta in 2019.
Dr Grima believes that there were a number of factors that influenced the reflagging to Malta of the world’s fourth largest container shipping lines, but principal amongst them was the fact the company has traditionally used EU flags and completed with the EU regulatory framework.
Along with CMA CGM, a number of other notable reflagging cases are notable, including involving Norwegian vehicle carrier Wallenius Wilhelmsen and Naples-based Grimaldi Group, which have both underwent a transition to Maltese flagging in recent years.
This phenomenon saw Malta Ship Registry record an “unprecedented increase” in the number of new registrations between 2019 and 2020, as Malta’s registered tonnage increased by seven per cent – the largest increase in the world at the time, Dr Grima comments.
Explaining why Malta is especially appealing to British companies, Dr Grima explains that it offers a cultural connection to Britain, a high availability of English speaking individuals in a variety of areas, shipping law that is broadly based on English common law and approved tonnage tax and corporate tax system that offers a favourable fiscal atmosphere.
Overall, Dr Grima concludes, Brexit “may have a lasting positive impact on the growth of the Malta maritime flag and increase the presence of Uk shipping organisations in Malta”.
“This bodes well not only for the consolidation of Malta’s impressive maritime flag standing, but also for strengthening its maritime services industry as a whole and its status as a leading maritime hub in the Mediterranean”.
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