Dr Katrina Abela heads Vaia Legal, a boutique law firm offering specialised legal services in the maritime, aviation and corporate fields in Malta. She is experienced in yacht and aircraft sale and purchase transactions, as well as ownership structures, customs importations, registration, and assisting companies with acquiring their Air Operator Certificate.

What benefits does Malta offer to those registering a vessel in the country?

Malta has developed a robust and efficient legal framework which has resulted in the country being a preferred jurisdiction for a number of institutions including financiers. Apart from the advantages of being a sovereign state within the European Union with political, fiscal and social stability, highlights include low company formation, ship registration and tonnage tax costs, along with other fiscal incentives, including tax measures encouraging the commercial operation of yachts and superyachts. There are no restrictions on the nationality of ship owners and shareholders of shipping companies, or the master, officers and crew. The registry also operates a 24-hour, seven days a week service in response to urgent matters. Malta’s registry is dynamic, one of the largest in the world, and very active in EU fora and international organisations such as the IMO.

Malta’s aircraft register is among the fastest-growing in the world. What is Malta’s unique value proposition to aircraft owners?

As an EU member state, Malta is a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the body responsible for ensuring safety and environmental protection in air transport in Europe. EASA sets the standard as to what is required for an aircraft to be validly registered in a member state. Furthermore, Malta has also developed a comprehensive and efficient legal framework which has enabled the country to position itself as the registry of choice for many owners, operators, lessors and financiers.

The Maltese jurisdiction maintains a rigorous but practical and flexible approach to the industry. The Aircraft Registration Act, which has been regularly updated to satisfy the needs of the industry, provides for the facility of a full set of securities and ownership options (including fractional ownership) while also facilitating staged registrations.

Moreover, Malta offers additional incentives outside the Aircraft Registration Act, developing efficient aircraft importation mechanisms, maintaining the fiscal benefits under the Highly Qualified Persons Rules, the development of cell structures within our Companies Act, and a dynamic Civil Aviation Directorate which understands the needs of the industry.

From your experience dealing with authorities on behalf of clients wishing to register an aircraft in Malta, how efficient and user-friendly is the registration process, typically?

The Civil Aviation Directorate has implemented a fully electronic system which has proven to be very efficient over the past years. This system enables the registrant to file all documents in electronic format and the need for wet ink hard copies has been eliminated in most situations.

When it comes to litigation, how efficient are Malta’s courts in delivering judgements in maritime matters?

The Maltese courts have maintained a pragmatic and efficient approach towards maritime cases over the years. The Maltese legislative framework also provides for a number of efficient procedures in maritime cases which has greatly contributed to this, such as the facilitation of court-approved private sales and arrest procedures.

This feature was first carried in the Malta Invest 2024 edition. Malta Invest is the first-ever comprehensive international investment guide focusing on Malta as a destination. It is produced by Content House Group.

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