The Malta Flag Administration has published its much-awaited Passenger Yacht Code (PYC). This followed a long process of prior consultation with industry stakeholders that the flag administration embarked on to obtain the industry's views before publishing this new code. In its official 'MSD Notice' (Number 171) addressed to owners and operators of Malta-flagged vessels, managers, master mariners, designers, builders, and classification societies, the Flag Administration acknowledged that it is widely accepted that, when considering the operational pattern and risk profile of commercial yachts, it is unreasonable and also unfeasible to impose on yachts carrying more than 12 passengers, the requirements that would otherwise apply to (typically much larger) commercial passenger ships.

This would be disproportionately onerous and impracticable both in terms of design and likewise, in terms of operation. The Flag Administration, however, acknowledged that as large commercial yachts continue to increase in size, the need to find workable solutions for such yachts carrying more than 12-passengers is becoming more pressing. Clearly, something had to be done to address this growing segment. Spurred on by the encouragement received from the industry, the Flag Administration developed so-called "equivalent arrangements" for yachts, which equivalent arrangements have now taken the form and shape of the newly published Passenger Yacht Code.

The PYC has been specifically designed and is intended for commercial yachts carrying passengers, not carrying cargo, which is engaged on international voyages. Operators of commercially registered yachts that intend to carry twelve passengers or less continue to be regulated by the highly successful Commercial Yacht Code: nothing changes there. On the other hand, for commercial yachts that intend to carry more than twelve (12) passengers the position has now changed: the PYC will apply. The PYC, however, imposes a limit of 36 passengers on such yachts, and a total limitation of no more than 200 persons, typically consisting of a crew, attendants and passengers.

Such yachts are required to meet SOLAS and other applicable Conventions' requirements. However, instead of certain disproportionally onerous Conventions' requirements, the Passenger Yacht may meet the requirements of the PYC which includes several dedicated "equivalencies". One important rule in the Code is that passenger yachts qualifying under the PYC must be surveyed, certified, audited, and issued with Class and Statutory Certificates by "Recognised Organisations".

The Passenger Yacht Code entered into force on the 25th of May 2021.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.