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Maritime lawyer, Dr Jean-Pie Gauci-Maistre, highlights the pivotal role of Malta's legal framework in keeping the Malta Flag flying high.

As a lawyer, I am constantly involved in keeping smooth waters between stakeholders by writing practical contracts and interpreting agreements, particularly when disputes arise. This is not merely shining a light on the nature of my role. Sustaining good relationships is crucial for an industry that is so vast and intricate since it links ocean crossing with onshore. The complexities and interest groups involved are also multiplied by the fact that over 90% of world trade is transported by sea. Consequently, even the slightest glitch causes a domino effect.

Perhaps the most striking change in recent years is the client/firm relationship. Clients today do their homework very well so that they are far from mystified when seeking legal advice, or redress. Despite the added pressure, I believe that this is an opportunity to build and consolidate trust which has always been the hallmark of our bespoke services. Moreover, our international, multi-lingual team enables us to reach out to our worldwide base of clients in a more empathic way because our cultural understanding is authentic. Indeed, cultural diversity is one of our main strengths.

Today, like any other sector, the maritime industry is experiencing both an exciting as well as a testing time in its application of disruptive and emerging technologies.  From the legal perspective, it has ushered unique legal and regulatory questions that have given rise to several grey areas primarily because concrete answers have been elusive. While

AI allows computers to interpret data, recognise patterns, and form conclusions with notable speed and accuracy, what is not fully appreciated is that it is not easy to come up with universally accepted nomenclature since variations reflect regulatory differences.

The regulatory complexity is also an ongoing challenge; more so when it comes to the maritime sector where the EU's stringent laws demand much time to be assimilated. The new regulations may also require changes to company policies and procedures while the reporting requirements have become more onerous, with substantial fines in place in case of default.   Whether one regards the constant stream of directives issued by the EU as a case of over-regulation or not is irrelevant because   this provides the opportunity to rise to the occasion.

Commitment, hard work and a go-getting attitude transcending tradition are the clinching factors which have propelled the white-listed Malta Flag as the largest shipping register in Europe while ranking 6th  worldwide.  Malta's reliable legal regime and maritime laws have been fundamental to attracting investors and financiers. This is further consolidated by EU membership which renders Malta subject to European Laws.

Moreover, the holistic approach adopted by most industries has made Malta an attractive jurisdiction. The sophisticated financial solutions in the maritime sector; our tonnage tax system which also applies to ship management companies; the efficient procedures for the registration of vessels and mortgages over such vessels; lease finance structures, court approved private sales; together with Malta's overall corporate and tax structures clearly indicate such an all-embracing vision.

Although maritime services do not immediately connote residency, funds, tax advisory, residency and citizenship, together with all the ancillary services; each and every one of these sectors has an innate and intricate financial aspect that has become the driving force in opting for Malta. Furthermore, the numerous double tax treaties that Malta has concluded with the world's major trading partners as well as with emerging countries has become a crucial selling point, particularly, where China is concerned. Such a maritime cluster is hard to beat.

Keeping our pulse on and even pre-empting the needs of the international maritime community is our way forward. Malta's regulator and legislature work keeps this mantra well in mind.

Dr Jean-Pie Gauci-Maistre is the Director of GM International Services Ltd. He is also Director of the affiliate GM Corporate and Fiduciary Services Limited as well as Managing Partner/Co-Founder of Gauci-Maistre Xynou, one of Malta's top-tier law firms that specialises in offering bespoke legal, audit and assurance services

For further information and/or clarification contact GM INTERNATIONAL SERVICES or visit our website http://www.gmint.com

This interview was originally published in Ship Management International Issue No 82 November/ December 2019 under the title 'Holistic approach makes Malta an attractive jurisdiction'.

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