Manning Requirements Onboard Malta Flagged Ships

The Manning Regulations enacted pursuant to the Merchant Shipping Act incorporates into Maltese law the STCW Convention, 1978, as subsequently amended by the STCW Code in 1995. In respect of every Maltese ship, every company shall ensure that –

  1. Every seaman assigned to any of its ship holds an appropriate certificate in respect of any function the seaman is to perform on that ship;
  2. Every seaman on any of its ships has had training specified in the Merchant Shipping (Training and Certification) Regulations, in respect of any function the seaman is to perform on that ship;
  3. Documentation and data relevant to all seaman employed in its ships are maintained and readily available for inspection and include, without being limited to, documentation and data on their experience, training, medical fitness and competence in assigned duties.

The company is also obligated to provide written instructions to the master of a Maltese Ship setting out the policies and the procedures to be followed to ensure that all seaman who are newly employed on board the ship are given a reasonable opportunity to familiarize themselves with the shipboard equipment, operating procedures and other arrangements needed for the proper performance of their duties, before being assigned to their duties.

Every company must also ensure that in relation to every ship of 500 GT or more –

  1. A safe manning document is in force in respect of the ship and the manning of the ship; 
  2. The safe manning document is kept on board the ship at all times;      
  3. The manning of the ship is maintained at all times to at least the levels specified in the safe manning document;
  4. The master of a Maltese Ship must not proceed to sea unless there is on board a valid safe manning document issued in respect of the ship and the manning of the ship complies with that document. 
1.1 Tax treatment of seafarers on board Maltese ships

There are no restrictions on the nationality of the crew or officers employed on Malta flagged vessels, neither is there a minimum threshold of seafarers who must be nationals of a particular jurisdiction or State. In fact all crew and officers working on board a Malta flagged vessel may be either EU or Non-EU nationals or both. It is up to the ship owning / ship management company to decide on this matter. The Tax Regulations go on to provide that persons not resident in Malta who are officers or employees of a Shipping Organization, and the organisation in respect of such officers and employees, are entitled to be exempt from the provision of the Social Security Act and of any enactment replacing that law. Thus, there is no social security contribution or percentage thereof which has to be paid in Malta in respect of seafarers not resident in Malta.

1.2 Maritime Labour Convention (MLC)

The new Convention consolidates and updates more than 68 international labour standards related to the maritime sector adopted over the last 80 years. The MLC sets out seafarer’s rights to favourable conditions of work on a wide range of subjects and aims to be globally applicable, easily understandable, readily updatable and uniformly enforced. It has been designed to become a global instrument known as the “fourth pillar” of the international regulatory regime for quality shipping, complementing the key Conventions of the International Maritime Organization.

The MLC has been transposed in the Laws of Malta through the Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) Rules, 2013. The MLC Rules applies all Maltese flagged ships, ordinarily engaged in commercial activities whenever they are and to all other ships ordinarily engaged in commercial activities while they are in Maltese waters and to all seafarers serving onboard such ships. The Rules shall not apply to fishing vessels, ships of traditional build, small ships as defined in the Small Ships Rules and that exclusively navigate in Maltese waters, and warships or naval auxiliaries. Malta has delegated the inspection functions and certification services under the MLC to the authorized Recognized Organizations (RO).The DMLC shall be carried onboard at all times together with the Maritime Labour Certificate.

Pursuant to Merchant Shipping notices 105, the Directorate considers that the following persons are not seafarers for the purposes of application of the MLC;
  1. Port workers, including travelling stevedors; 
  2. Pilots and port officials; 
  3. Ship surveyors and auditors; 
  4.  Equipment repair / service technicians and riding crew whose principal place of employment is onshore;
  5. Guest entertainers who work occasionally and short term onboard with their principal place of employment being onshore.
If a shipowner deems that there is any other category of persons who should not be considered as seafarers for the purposes of the MLC, an application to that effect should be submitted to the Directorate through its legal representative in Malta. Please do not hesitate to contact one of our members at Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates for any enquiries related to MLC or crewing matters. Failure of a Malta flagged ship to comply with the MLC may be considered as a non- conformity as defined in the ISM Code, and could possibly result in the withdrawal of the vessel’s Safety Management Certificate.
Cedric Mifsud graduated as lawyer from the University of Malta in 2003 and was subsequently admitted to the bar in Malta. He later specialised in European Law particularly focus on Competition law. Upon qualifying he joined a leading firm in Malta as a litigation lawyer. In 2007 together with his brother, Malcolm, he co-founded Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates. Cedric set up the Corporate and Commercial Department of the firm making the firm one of the leading business law firms in Malta. Part of the Corporate and Commercial Department includes the Maritime Practice which has a considerable portfolio of Superyachts and Commercial Vessels.
François qualified as an Avocat (French lawyer) in 2016 and created the French Desk at Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates. He is now registered at the Bars of Paris and Malta. He is also presently a Marine Consultant, a listed Marine Surveyor at the Rouen Appeal’s Court, a Maritime Arbitrator at the ‘Chambre Arbitrale Maritime de Paris’, a Member of the Malta Arbitration Centre, and a member of the Malta Maritime Law Association.
Charlene obtained her Bachelor of Laws (Honours) degree in 2016 and is currently reading for Master of Advocacy at the University of Malta. She joined Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates as a legal trainee in 2015 and is mainly responsible for vetting contracts, shipping registration, legal research and drafting, and other general corporate duties.
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