Shipping Advantages

Maltese Shipping – The Tonnage Tax System and Advantages for Shipping Companies

Mediterranean centre of maritime excellence. Currently Malta has the largest shipping register in Europe and the sixth largest in the world. In addition, Malta has become a world leader in terms of commercial yacht registration.

In order to avoid the risk of shipping companies relocating or flagging to low-tax countries outside the EU, the European Commission’s 2004 Guidelines on State Aid to Maritime Transport (commercial shipping activities) was introduced to allow Member States to implement financial benefits for shipping companies. One of the most important benefits was to replace traditional methods of taxation with a tonnage tax.

In December 2017, the European Commission approved the Maltese tonnage tax regime for a period of 10 years, following a review of its compatibility with EU State Aid Rules.

The Maltese Shipping Tonnage Tax System

Under the Malta Tonnage Tax System, tax is dependent on the tonnage of the vessel or fleet belonging to a particular ship-owner or ship-manager. Only companies that are active in maritime transport are eligible under the Maritime Guidelines.

Standard corporate tax rules do not apply to shipping activities in Malta. Instead shipping operations are subject to an annual tax consisting of a registration fee and annual tonnage tax. The rate of tonnage tax reduces according to the age of the vessel.

  • As an example, a trading ship measuring 80 metres, with 10,000 gross tonnage, built in the year 2000, will pay a fee of €6,524 on registration and €5,514 annual tax thereafter.

The smallest category of ship is up to a net tonnage of 2,500 and the largest, and most expensive, are ships over 50,000 net tonnage. Charges are reduced for ships in the 0-5 and 5-10 year old age categories respectively and are greatest for those 25-30 years old.

Taxation of Shipping Activities in Malta

As detailed above:

  • Income derived from shipping activities by a licensed shipping organisation is exempt from income tax.
  • Income derived from ship management activities by a ship manager is exempt from income tax.

In all other circumstances:

  • Shipping companies incorporated in Malta are taxed on their worldwide income and capital gains.
  • Shipping companies not incorporated in Malta, but where control and management are exercised in Malta, are taxed on local income and capital gains and on foreign source income remitted to Malta.
  • Shipping companies not incorporated in Malta and where management and control are not exercised in Malta, are taxed on income and capital gains arising in Malta.

Ship Management Activities

Following a European Commission ruling, Malta has amended its tonnage tax law.

Ship management activities are now included in the tonnage tax system. This means that ship managers are allowed to pay a tonnage tax which is equivalent to a percentage of the tonnage tax paid by the owners and/or charterers of the ships managed. Any income derived by a ship manager from ship management activities is deemed to be income derived from shipping activities and is therefore exempt from income tax.

Ship management organisations can benefit from the tonnage tax measures, provided that the following conditions are met:

  • must be a ship management organisation established in the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA);
  • have assumed responsibility for either technical and/or crew management of a ship;
  • must comply with the international standards and requirements of the EU;
  • must specifically include shipping activities in their objects and must register with the Registrar General accordingly;
  • maintain separate accounts, clearly distinguishing the payments by and receipts of the ship manager with respect to ship management activities from those not connected to such activity;
  • the ship manager opts to pay an annual tonnage tax on all ships;
  • At least two-thirds of the tonnage of the ships that the ship manager is providing ship management activities for must be managed in the EU and EEA;
  • the tonnage that the ship manager provides ship management activities for must satisfy the flag-link requirement.

Maltese Tonnage Tax Eligibility

Tonnage tax is applied to the activities of a shipping company as follows:

  • core revenues from shipping activities;
  • certain ancillary revenues that are closely connected to shipping activities (capped at a maximum 50% of a ship’s operating revenue); and
  • revenues from towage and dredging (subject to certain conditions).

Maltese shipping organisations must register with the Finance Minister by submitting the name of the organisation, the registered office address and the name and tonnage of the ship it wishes to own or operate. The vessel must be declared a ‘Tonnage Tax Ship’ or a ‘Community Ship’, with a minimum net tonnage of 1,000 and be entirely owned, chartered, managed, administered or operated by a shipping organisation.

A shipping company can only benefit from the Maltese Tonnage Tax scheme if it has a significant part of its fleet flying the flag of a European Economic Area (EEA) Member State.

Additional Reasons to Consider Ship Registration in Malta

There are a number of additional reasons to consider ship registration in Malta:

  • The Malta registry is on the Paris MOU and Tokyo MOU white lists.
  • Vessels registered under the Malta Flag have no trading restrictions and are given preferential treatment in many ports.
  • Registration of vessels under the Maltese flag takes place in two stages. A vessel is provisionally registered for a six-month period. This is an easy and fast process. During this provisional registration period the owner is required to submit additional documentation and then the vessel is permanently registered under the Maltese flag.
  • There is an exemption from stamp duty in Malta on the registration and/or sale of a ship, shares relating to a licensed shipping organisation and the registration of a mortgage relating to a ship.

Additional Information

If you would like further information regarding the Malta Tonnage Tax System or the registration of a ship and/or yacht in Malta, please contact Jonathan Vassallo at the Dixcart office in Malta: advice.malta@dixcart.com or your usual Dixcart contact.

The Key Principles and What you Need to Know Today About Marine Insurance 

Malta and the Marine Sector Plus a Definition of Insurance

Malta has a long, rich maritime history and has the largest shipping register in Europe. Insurance is a topic that requires a detailed understanding of the options available, by the companies operating in this sector and professional advisors such as Dixcart Malta.

The contract of insurance is a contract under which one person (the insurer) is legally bound to pay a sum of money or its equivalent to another person (the insured), upon the happening of a specified event involving some element of uncertainty as to time or likelihood of occurrence, which affects the insured’s interest in the subject-matter of the insurance.
The objective is to indemnify the insured against losses attributed to marine adventure. The three main principles of marine insurance are: indemnity, insurable interest and utmost good faith.

The First Principle of Indemnity

The principle of indemnity, in the context of insurance, essentially has two elements:

  1. To ensure that the amount compensated or reimbursed shall not increase the assets of the insured in any way. An insurance policy can never be a source of benefit or profit for the insured;
  2. The amount of compensation or reimbursement should never exceed the value of the policy taken. The amount which has been agreed upon by the insured and the insurer, if any, is the upper limit of the compensation to be paid.

The Second Principle of Insurable Interest

This second principle is made up of the following:

  1. financial loss;
  2. the loss was caused by the peril insured against;
  3. the subject matter was covered by the policy;
  4. insurable interest.

An insurer normally requires:

  • The assured may benefit by the safety or due arrival of insurable property or be prejudiced by its loss, damage, or detention in respect of which he/she may incur liability;
  • The assured stands in a legal or equitable relationship to the adventure or to any insurable property at risk in such adventure; and

The benefit, prejudice or incurring of liability referred to in the first bullet point above, must arise in consequence of the legal or equitable relationship referred to in the second bullet point.

The Third Principal of Utmost Good Faith

The third and final principal of utmost good faith is embodied in The Marine Insurance Act.

A contract of marine insurance is a contract based upon the utmost good faith, and, if the utmost good faith is not observed by either party, the contract may be voided by the other party. The duty of utmost good faith requires both parties to ensure proper disclosure of all material circumstances and to avoid making misrepresentations about material facts, circumstances or beliefs.

If utmost good faith is shown not to have been observed by either party, the statutory duty enables the aggrieved party to rescind the contract ab initio, thereby restoring the parties to the position they were in, as if they had not entered into the contract.

The Courts have consistently ruled against allowing the insured’s duty of good faith, to be used by the insurer as an instrument to enable the insurer him/herself to act in bad faith. For the insurers to succeed in avoiding the contract, due to non-disclosure during the performance of the contract, the insurers would have to show that the claim was made fraudulently.

Types of Marine Insurance

The four main types of Marine Insurance are:

1.            Hull insurance: insurance of the vessel with its gear.

2.            Cargo insurance: insurance of goods carried by sea.

3.            Insurance against the liability of the carrier; protection and indemnity (P&I Clubs); 

              compulsory or mandatory insurance, voluntary insurance (e.g. liability for cargo).

4.            Other types of marine insurance; freight, salvage expenses and general  average

               contributions, insurance of containers, shipyards, oil rigs (“energy”), etc.

The Marine Insurance Policy

The contract must be in a policy that specifies: the name of the insured, the subject-matter, the risks, the voyage or period of time covered by the insurance, the sum insured, and the name of the insurer. It must also bear the signature of the insurer or his/her representative.

A policy is voided when there is:

  • Any implied condition as to the commencement of risk: the adventure shall be commenced within a reasonable time, otherwise the insurer may avoid the contract.
  • Alteration of port of departure: the risk does not attach and the insurer may avoid the contract.
  • Sailing to different destinations: the risk does not attach.
  • Change of voyage: the insurer is discharged from liability as from the time of the change. Manifest intention to change the voyage is sufficient. This must be a voluntary change of destination.
  • Deviation: the insurer is discharged from liability as from the time of deviation. Where there are several ports of discharge, these must proceed in the order designated by the policy. If not then there is a deviation.
  • Delay: the adventure must be commenced within a reasonable time period.

There are various ‘excuses’ for deviation or delay, the main ones being: lack of authorisation (“held covered” provisions), the safety of the ship, saving human life, and events beyond the master’s control.

Additional Information

For further information about the Malta Maritime matters please contact Jonathan Vassallo, at the Dixcart office in Malta: advice.malta@dixcart.com.

Alternatively, please speak to your usual Dixcart contact.

Cyprus – The Complete Superyacht Package

Cyprus is a key maritime centre and is recognised as one of the most accessible registries in the EU. It has not only grown in size in the last two decades but has also made a considerable effort to increase the quality of its fleet and related services.

Limassol Marina, the first and largest superyacht marina in Cyprus, is one of the most sought-after waterfront locations in the Mediterranean and since opening has seen approximately over 9,000 international arrivals, including 300+ unique superyachts, each stretching to over 140m. As a result, the Cyprus flag is now classified on the whitelist of the Paris and Tokyo MOUs (Flags securing the highest rating in relation to the Memorandum of Understandings on Port State Control).

Due to its strategic location at the gateway of Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, it is a hub for shipowners and investors from all over the world, and there has been a rapid growth in the number of Cyprus shipping companies in recent years.

The procedure for registering vessels under the Cyprus flag has been designed to attract foreign investment and to build a dependable reputation, to be recognised by all of the international shipping authorities.

Cyprus offers competitive yacht registration fees, low ongoing annual fees for yacht owners, and an attractive tax treatment for officers and crew working on a Cyprus registered yacht, whereby they are not subject to income tax, as well as a series of other tax advantages. These include; no tax on profits from the operational and/or management profit, no tax on income or dividends received from a ship management company, and a favourable tonnage tax scheme, based on gross tonnage.

Generally, those wishing to register a vessel under the Cyprus flag incorporate a company in Cyprus, which will either acquire the yacht in its name, or bareboat charter the yacht. Cyprus offers a competitive rate of corporate income tax at 12.5% and low operating costs for Cyprus-owned companies. In addition, there is no estate duty on the inheritance of shares in a Cyprus shipping company and no stamp duty is payable on the ship mortgage deeds.

Dixcart Services and Additional Information

Dixcart can assist in all aspects of registering a yacht in Cyprus. Services include the incorporation of the owner entity, coordinating the appropriate corporate and tax compliance, and registration of the vessel.

Find out more: Key advantages of registering your pleasure yacht in Cyprus

Shipping Advantages

Shipping Advantages in Cyprus, the Isle of Man, Madeira (Portugal) and Malta

Dixcart can provide clients with a number of alternative ship registration solutions. This note provides a brief overview of the regimes in Cyprus, the Isle of Man, Madeira (Portugal) and Malta and the shipping advantages they offer. More detailed information is available on request regarding shipping in each of the jurisdictions considered in this Information Note.

Shipping Advantages by Jurisdiction:

Cyprus

Cyprus is a major ship management centre attracting foreign ship owners through the highly favourable tax provisions available for shipping companies on the island. It is recognised as one of the most accessible registries in the EU.

The Cyprus shipping registry has not only grown in size in the last two decades but has also made a considerable effort to increase the quality of its fleet and related services. As a result the Cyprus flag is now classified on the white list of the Paris and Tokyo MOUs*.

Key shipping advantages relating to the shipping sector in Cyprus include:

  • Cyprus exempts international transport services from value added tax when these services are supplied outside of the EU.
  • The income of officers and crew on Cypriot registered vessels is not subject to income tax.
  • Cyprus offers a competitive rate of corporate income tax at 12.5%.
  • There is no estate duty on the inheritance of shares in a Cyprus shipping company and no stamp duty is payable on ship mortgage deeds.
  • A new tonnage tax system was enacted in May 2010. The tax system is in full compliance with EU requirements. The tonnage tax (TT) is calculated on the net tonnage of the ship according to a broad range of band rates proscribed in legislation. The Cypriot approved tonnage tax system provides for TT on the net tonnage of the vessel rather than corporation tax on the actual profit. This allows for mixed activities within a group, shipping activities are subject to TT and other activities are subject to 12.5% corporation tax.
  • Cyprus also offers a series of tax advantages which are applicable to ship and ship management companies: exemption from tax of dividend income (subject to limited conditions), exemption from tax on profits from foreign permanent establishments, and exemption from withholding tax on the repatriation of income (dividends, interest and nearly all royalties).

Isle of Man

The Isle of Man Registry is a Category One British Registry, and can therefore maintain international safety convention status for vessels of all sizes and classes. As a British ship, an Isle of Man flagged vessel is entitled to protection and assistance from the British Royal Navy and access to British consular services worldwide.

The Isle of Man shipping registry has a reputation for quality and for a customer focused approach:  

  • The Isle of Man registry is on the Paris and Tokyo MOU white lists. It is recognised by the United States Coast Guard as a Qualship 21 flag and it is at the top of the industry’s flags by country performance table.          
  • The ship registry in the Isle of Man offers in-house expertise and availability 24 hours of every day and provides a fast response to any queries.
  • The Isle of Man registry offers reasonable costs. There are no annual tonnage dues and in terms of tax obligations, corporate income tax in the Isle of Man is zero.       
     
  • There is flexibility in the requirements for registered owners, with a comprehensive list of accepted countries for ownership.  
  • The Isle of Man shipping registry allows ships to demise-in, enabling a transfer of registry and also allows ships to register on a demise charter registry other than in the Isle of Man (demise-out).        
  • It is a flag of choice for merchant vessels and commercial yachts and it is not designated as a flag of convenience.

Madeira (Portugal) Shipping Advantages

The International Shipping Register of Madeira (MAR) was established in 1989 as part of the Madeira International Business Centre (“MIBC”) “package” of taxation benefits. Vessels registered with MAR carry the Portuguese flag and are subject to the International Treaties and Conventions entered into by Portugal.

The key shipping advantages of ship registration in MAR are detailed below:

  • The register is of a high standard, has EU credibility, is not regarded as a flag of convenience and is included in the Paris MOU white list.          
  • There are no nationality requirements for ship-owners of vessels registered in MAR. They are not required to have their head office in Madeira. It is sufficient to have local legal representation with adequate powers.      
  • Only 30% of the safe manning must be “European”. This includes nationalities such as Polish, Russian and Ukrainian, as well as citizens of Portuguese-speaking countries. This requirement may also be derogated if duly justified. This allows for flexible manning.
  • Crew wages are exempt from income tax and from social security charges in Portugal.        
  • The existence of a flexible mortgage system allows the mortgagor and the mortgagee, by written agreement, to choose the legal system of a particular country that will govern the terms of the mortgage.   
  • Competitive registration fees, there are no annual tonnage taxes.   
  • Eight International Classification Societies are recognised in Portugal. MAR can delegate some of its functions to these societies. This can be simpler and more convenient for ship owners.          
  • Temporary registration is allowed by law (bareboat charter: “In” and “Out”).        
  • Shipping companies licensed to operate within MAR benefit from a corporate income tax rate of 5% until 2027. They also enjoy automatic VAT registration and have access to the Portuguese double taxation treaty network.

Malta Shipping Advantages

Malta provides a reputable flag and ensures compliance with international and European standards. Registration of vessels under the Maltese flag take place in two stages. A vessel is provisionally registered for a six month period. During this provisional registration period, the owner is required to submit additional documentation and the vessel is then permanently registered under the Maltese flag.

There are a number of attractive tax reasons and shipping advantages to consider ship registration in Malta:

•       The standard corporate tax rules do not apply to shipping activities in Malta, due to a specific exemption. No tax on profits from shipping activities is therefore due. Following recent amendments this exemption has also been extended to ship management companies.          

•       Shipping operations are subject to an annual tax comprising an annual registration fee and a tonnage tax based on the net tonnage of the vessel. The rates of tonnage tax are reduced according to the age of the vessel.

•       There is an exemption from stamp duty in Malta on the registration or sale of a ship, shares relating to a licensed shipping organisation and the registration of a mortgage relating to a ship.

•       Individuals not resident in Malta who are officers or employees of a licensed shipping organisation, and the organisation that they work for, are exempt from social security contributions.     

Dixcart Shipping Services and Additional Information

Dixcart can assist in all aspects of registering a ship in Cyprus, the Isle of Man, Madeira and Malta.  

Services include the incorporation of the owner entity, coordinating the appropriate corporate and tax compliance, and registration of the vessel.

If you would like additional information on this topic, please speak to your usual Dixcart contact or to:

*White List Paris and Tokyo MOUs: Flags securing the highest rating in relation to the Memorandum of Understandings on Port State Control.

Dixcart Management (IOM) Limited is licensed by the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority