The Merchant Shipping Directorate recently published Merchant Shipping Notice 171 announcing the entry into force of the Malta Passenger Yacht Code (hereinafter 'PYC') with effect from 25th May 2021. The drafting and issuance of the PYC is a clear indication of Malta's commitment towards the super-yacht industry.

The PYC was drawn up in consultation with various industry stake holders including yacht designers, yacht builders, yacht managers, yacht builders' associations, repair yards, specialised service providers, manufacturers, surveyors, and recognised organisations (ROs); as a wider representation of this industry.

Before the coming into force of the PYC, commercial yachts registered under the highly prestigious Malta flag and carrying more than twelve (12) passengers were obliged to satisfy requirements similar to those applicable to passenger ships due to the fact that such commercial passenger yachts did not fall within the scope of the Malta Commercial Yacht Code. As a result of the increasing size of commercial yachts and the burdensome requirements relating to passenger ships, the Merchant Shipping Directorate acknowledged the necessity to develop the PYC catering for larger commercial passenger yachts carrying more than 12 passengers.

The PYC has been made applicable to passenger yachts:

  • carrying more than 12 passengers and not more than 26 passengers;
  • carrying a total compliment of persons of not more than 200;
  • which do not carry cargo; and
  • which are engaged on international voyages.

The PYC defines a "Passenger" as including "every person other than:

  1. the master and the members of the crew or other persons employed or engaged in any capacity on board a ship on the business of that ship; and,
  2. a child under one year of age."

The PYC also provides guidelines for static chartering of passenger yachts, such that in instances where the passenger yacht will remain static; berthed or anchored at sea, the yacht may be allowed to carry more than 36 passengers. For a passenger yacht to be able to be chartered on a static basis, the yacht would need to be issued with a statement by Flag Authority, allowing static charters to be held onboard.

The PYC does not apply to:

  • commercial yachts carrying 12 or fewer passengers (the Malta Commercial Yacht Code applies in this case);
  • passenger commercial/cruise vessels engaged exclusively in domestic navigation;
  • passenger commercial/cruise vessels carrying more than 36 passengers;
  • vessels engaged in the ferrying of passengers;
  • military vessels;
  • vessels belonging to the State and used for non-commercial purposes;
  • pleasure craft and yachts not employed in commercial use;
  • fishing vessels;
  • vessels owned or operated on non-commercial services; and
  • Passenger ships whose total complement of persons onboard is greater than 200 persons.

Once owners comply with the standards set out in the PYC; that is, they submit the necessary documentation and complete the designated survey and inspections, the Maltese Flag Authorities would issue the vessel with a Statutory Certificate.

Additionally, all passenger yachts must be classed by a RO and must maintain valid classification throughout the validity period of the yacht's statutory certificate. The applicable RO Rules for classification purposes are those used for the classification of passenger ships. Upon the satisfactory completion of all the required surveys or audits, the yacht's RO would issue a certificate confirming compliance with the Malta PYC.

Passenger Yachts certified under the remit of the PYC may carry out International (Unrestricted) Voyages or Short International Voyages, as defined by SOLAS.

It should be noted that existing Commercial yachts registered with the Malta flag, may convert to passenger yachts subject that they meet all the requirements of the PYC and of the applicable passenger ship Conventions.

The introduction of the PYC is undoubtedly a welcome development for those who are desirous to register larger commercial yachts under the Malta flag as it tackles many of the technical issues and concerns which were previously faced by prospective registrants.

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.