In accordance with the Malta Commercial Yacht Code ("CYC"), on the 2nd September 2021, the Merchant Shipping Directorate of Transport Malta issued the 'Commercial Yacht - Pleasure Yacht Changeover Guidelines' ("the Guidelines").

The Guidelines extensively highlight the procedure requested by Transport Malta when yacht owners intend on changing the registration status of a Malta flag yacht from that of a pleasure yacht to that of a commercial yacht and vice-versa. Although such possibility of shifting between registration statuses was always accepted by the Malta Ship Registry, the implementation of such Guidelines clearly highlighting the salient principles which yacht owners must keep in mind and the process as to how such changeover may be made shall definitely prove to be a useful tool for yacht owners. The Guidelines clarify the position of the Malta Ship Registry and address any misconceptions yacht owners might have previously had.

For starters, the Guidelines clearly denote that the Merchant Shipping Directorate within Transport Malta does not enforce a capping upon the number of changes which can be made to the registration status of a Malta flagged yacht. On this note, there is also no limit in relation to the duration of change of registration. One may gather that these Guidelines were drafted with the aim of offering the yacht owner a great degree of flexibility with respect to changing the registration status of the yacht.

Although yacht owners are afforded this flexibility, the Guidelines recommend that in the case that the registration of a yacht aims to be changed from commercial to pleasure, then the yacht owner is to carry out the same survey and certification regime as that used for commercial yachts. This is aimed at smoothening the process should the yacht owner decide to change back the status of the yacht to that of a commercial yacht.

Prior to submitting the application for changeover, there needs to be an undertaking signed by the yacht owner ensuring that the current Certificate of Registry of the yacht is forwarded to the Administration upon the arrival of the new Certificate.

The Guidelines further provide that in the event that the registration status of a yacht is changed more than once during a 12-month period, the fees applicable as discussed in the First Schedule of the Merchant Shipping Act (Cap.234) Para A (iii), are only to be paid to Transport Malta once during such 12-month period and not with each changeover.

The Guidelines go on to highlight the process which must be carried out when the registration status of a yacht is changed from a commercial to a pleasure yacht. When the yacht owner receives the new Certificate of Registry (portraying the pleasure yacht status), after having forwarded the old Certificate of Registry (portraying the commercial yacht status) to Transport Malta, all other commercial yacht related certificates, including the Compliance to Trade as a Commercial Yacht Certificate ("CoC"), are to be kept in a safe onboard the vessel. The latter falls under the responsibility of the ship master.

Additionally, when it comes to the changeover from a pleasure yacht to a commercial yacht besides the need of forwarding the old Certificate of Registry, just as in the above case, such certificates are also to be forwarded to an appointed surveyor and/or a classification society surveyor, as requested.

In the case of yachts which were not previously registered as commercial yachts, the Merchant Shipping Directorate must first approve the appointed surveyor/classification society and allow such person to issue certificates and reports denoting that the survey carried out was satisfactory and that the yacht owner was complying to the Malta CYC. The surveyor is then obliged to send in his reports for review for the CoC to be issued.

Alternatively, in the scenario where the yacht has previously been registered as a commercial yacht, the services of the surveyor will mainly be necessary for yachts which are due for inspection or if the yacht's certificates expire. In the case where certificates are up to date, the surveyor will only be requested to fill out a declaration confirming that there are no expired certificates or overdue surveys. This must be accompanied by a document signed by the master ensuring that the yacht has not suffered any damages from the surveyor's previous inspection. Following the receipt of the updated documentation and payment of fees, Transport Malta will then issue the Commercial Yacht Registration Certificate.

The implementation of these guidelines affords more clarity to yacht owners and are to be considered an advancement in the yachting industry.

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.