Maltese Shipping Companies
A pre-requisite for a Malta
flag registration is the formation of a Maltese shipping company. Maltese
ship owning companies are onshore companies. Shipping companies remain
regulated by the Commercial Partnerships Ordinance, which in respect of
other companies was replaced by the Companies Act in 1996. Thus, a ship
owning company is governed by company law as it was previous to 1996,
without the many legal requirements imposed by the Companies Act which is
harmonised with EU law.
The principal place of business need not be located in Malta and there are no restrictions on the sale and transfer of shares or stock of a Maltese shipping company.
Company registration fees are Lm100; a fee of Lm25 is payable on the filling in of an annual return.
Taxation of Shipping Companies
Shipping companies are subject to corporate tax at the normal rate. However, under the Merchant Shipping Act, all gains or profits of a Malta company derived from the operation and ownership of a Maltese registered vessel are exempt from income tax.
This tax benefit applies to companies owning registered vessels of not less than 1,000 net tons engaged in the carriage of goods and passengers.
Moreover, the Minister of Finance may, upon application, extend such exemption to a vessel of a lesser tonnage and to ships not engaged in the carriage of goods and passengers. This fiscal exemption may be applied for in respect of any Maltese registered ship, and is a mere formality for ships of 500 gross tons and over.
Maltese Shipping Company dividends distributed to corporate shareholders are exempt from tax.
Interest payable to a non-resident on a loan raised for the purpose of owning or operating a registered ship is exempt from tax; and
The sale, transfer or transmission “causa mortis” of any ship, or of any shares in a ship-owning company is duty-free.
A company can be registered in a few hours on the basis of a power of attorney sent by the shareholders to their representatives in Malta, together with the following information:
The proposed company name; a name can be reserved for three months;
The registered address of the proposed company; this can be the same as that of the representative in Malta;
A minimum of two shareholders who can be foreign individuals or bodies corporate;
The distribution of the proposed company shares;
The name and details of the directors of the proposed company; these can be foreign individuals or bodies corporate;
Details of voting, capital or class rights and indication of any local proxies.