The Benefits of Ship or Yacht Registration in Portugal, with the International Shipping Register of Madeira (MAR)

Ship or Yacht Registration in Portugal

The International Shipping Register of Madeira (MAR) was established in 1989 as part of the Madeira International Business Centre (“MIBC”) “package” of taxation benefits. Portugal is an attractive jurisdiction for ship or yacht registration, with over half a million vessels are now registered with MAR. It is also ranked the fourth international shipping register in the EU. If you are in the process of deciding where to register your vessel, Portugal should be considered.

Vessels registered with MAR carry the Portuguese flag and are subject to the International Treaties and Conventions entered into by Portugal. The register is of a high standard, has EU credibility, is not regarded as a flag of convenience, and is whitelisted in both Paris MoU and Med MoU. Moreover, it has never been regarded by the ITF as a flag of convenience.

It is important to note that the Portuguese Government is determined to boost the maritime economy, taking concrete steps to put MAR among the leading European flags. In this context we must point out that MAR is one of the first flags to fully introduce an efficient digital system, allowing for the dematerialisation of all procedures and the issuing of electronic certificates following the IMO Guidelines for the use of electronic certificates.

In the words of MAR’s Technical Commission, “Portugal considers digitalization in the maritime transport as a very relevant development, namely in respect to expediting sharing of information, improving security and traceability of documentation and reducing administrative burdens.”

It is therefore clear that MAR is offering the best quality package to owners worldwide, as any individual or entity can register a vessel with MAR. There are no nationality requirements for ship-owners of vessels registered in MAR and they are not required to have their head office in Madeira. In addition, if the entity is registered with the International Business Centre of Madeira (MIBC), and undertakes maritime transportation, it can enjoy specific tax incentives provided by the MIBC.

Advantages of Ship or Yacht Registration in Portugal

Yacht Registration with MAR:

  • EU register – yacht registration in MAR provides unrestricted access to EU waters.
  • Yacht owners are not required to have their head office in Madeira (it is sufficient to have local legal representation with adequate powers).
  • Low levels of taxation.
  • The yacht does not have to sail or be moored in Madeira.
  • No citizenship requirements for the crew of commercial yachts and a flexible social security regime.
  • The existence of a flexible mortgage system which 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.   
  • Reduced costs of registration.

Advantages of Ship Registration in MAR:

  • EU Flag – the register is of a high standard and has complete EU credibility, with access to continental and island cabotage.
  • The register is included in the Paris MoU Whitelist.
  • Competitive registration fees, there are no annual tonnage taxes.   
  • 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.
  • If an MIBC company is formed, with the object being maritime transportation, there is no share capital requirements.
  • Shipping companies licensed to operate within MAR benefit from a corporate income tax rate of 5% until 2027. They also enjoy:
    • automatic VAT registration,
    • access to the Portuguese double taxation treaty network,
    • exemption from withholding taxes on the distribution of dividends,
    • exemption from withholding taxes on interest, royalties and service fees paid to non-residents,
    • and exemption from capital duty, notary, and registration fees.
    • If certain requirements are met, shipping companies may also be exempt from capital gains tax when subsidiaries are sold.
  • The existence of a flexible mortgage system which 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.   
  • 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”).
  • Vessels under the Portuguese flag are included in the Qualship 21 Index of the United States of America. This certificate recognises the exceptional standards of the Register.

Summary

If you are interested in finding out more about Ship or Yacht Registration in Portugal and would like to take advantages of the benefits listed within this article, please contact: advice.portugal@dixcart.com, or your usual Dixcart contact

Portuguese Tonnage Tax

The Portuguese Tonnage Tax and All The Benefits it Offers

The Portuguese tonnage tax and seafarer scheme was approved by the European Commission on 6 April 2018. This was in line with EU State aid rules, in particular the Guidelines on State aid to maritime transport. The Portuguese measures will enhance the competitiveness of the Portuguese shipping sector. Simultaneously, they will protect know-how and jobs in the EU maritime transport sector.

The law proposal had been presented by the Portuguese Government to Parliament before this date, and enactment is anticipated in the near future.

Portuguese Tonnage Tax System: Eligibility

The tonnage tax is not a tax but rather a means to determine relevant taxable income.

Entities liable to corporate income tax, carrying out eligible shipping activities, with a registered head office or place of effective management in Portugal, may opt to be taxed under this new tonnage scheme.

Application to the tonnage scheme will be subject to certain legal requirements as follows:

  • at least 60% of the respective net tonnage must fly a flag of a European Member State (EU) or an Economic European Area State (EEA) and be managed from an EU or EEA State;
  • in terms of chartering, the net tonnage of the ships under a charter cannot exceed 75% of the total fleet of the charterer and must comply with the flag and management requirements detailed above;
  • at least 50% of the crew of the relevant ships must be nationals from EU, EEA or Portuguese-speaking countries, except for very limited exceptional cases.

Tax Details: Portuguese Tonnage Tax Regime

Taxable income is calculated as a lump sum, depending on the size (net tonnage) of the ships, independent of the actual earnings (profit or loss), as per the schedule below:

Net TonnageDaily taxable income for each 100 net tonnes
Up to 1,000 net tonnes€ 0.75
1,001 – 10,000 net tonnes€ 0.60
10,001 – 25,000 net tonnes€ 0.40
Over 25,001 net tonnes€ 0.20

The tonnage tax can be applied to a shipping company’s:

  • core revenue from maritime transport activities, such as cargo and passenger transport;
  • certain ancillary revenue closely connected to shipping activities (which is capped at a maximum 50% of a ship’s operating revenue); and
  • revenue from towage and dredging, subject to certain conditions.

For more environmentally-friendly ships, companies can achieve an additional reduction of 10% to 20% of tax under the tonnage tax scheme.

Taxable profit assessed, as per the above schedule, is then subject to the standard rate of 21% corporate income tax (municipal surtax and state surtax also apply). No deductions can be offset against the taxable profit assessed under this scheme.

The proposed tonnage tax regime will be optional. However, participation in the scheme must be for a minimum 3 years, if commenced within the first 3 fiscal years of the introduction of the tonnage regime. After this initial period, subsequent participation must be for a minimum 5 years.

Scheme to Support Crew

The scheme exempts crew members employed on vessels eligible under the tonnage tax regime from paying personal income tax (IRS). A minimum of 90 days on board the vessel is required in each tax year, as well as meeting a number of other conditions.

The new scheme also allows the crew to pay reduced social security contributions; total rate of 6%, 4.1% paid by the employer and 1.9% by the member of the crew.

MAR – Madeira International Shipping Register

MAR is the fourth largest EU international shipping register. Ships registered with MAR qualify for the tonnage scheme. Madeira is an integral part of Portugal. In other words, Companies registered there enjoy a number of tax benefits which are guaranteed until at least the end of 2027.

MAR also permits bareboat charter registration. Therefore, MAR is very likely to be the preferred option for ship owners wishing to reflag their fleet in order to benefit from this new tonnage system.

In addition, the Madeira International Business Centre, of which MAR is a part, also offers several tax advantages to shipping companies, which can be combined with the benefits of this new scheme.

Additional Information

If you require additional information on this topic, please speak to your usual Dixcart contact, or to Carlos Santos at the Dixcart office in Madeira: advice.portugal@dixcart.com

Why Use The Azores

Why Use The Azores (Portugal) for Yacht Importation?

Background

The Archipelago of the Azores is composed of nine volcanic islands and is situated in the North Atlantic, about 1,500 kilometres west of Lisbon. These islands are an autonomous region of Portugal.

What Advantages are Offered by the Azores for Yacht Importation into the EU?

  • The standard rate of Portuguese VAT is 23% but the Azores benefits from a reduced VAT rate of 18%.

In relation to the EU as a whole, the Azores has the second lowest rate of VAT within the EU (equal to Malta), with only Luxembourg enjoying a lower rate at 17%.  The low rate of VAT is a major reason why the Azores continues to be a popular location for yacht importation into the EU.

The Azores also provides a geographical advantage as it is on the route used by yachts crossing the Atlantic, from the US and the Caribbean, to Europe.

Dixcart: Yacht Importation Services Using the Azores

Dixcart has extensive experience importing yachts through the Azores.

The yacht must physically travel to the Azores and it must  be moored there for two to three working days, to enable customs clearance to take place.

Dixcart undertakes the preparation work at their office in Madeira and then organises for the appropriate professionals to travel to the Azores, to be there at the correct time and for the relevant number of days. These professionals assist with the customs clearance procedures and payment of VAT.

Steps and Procedures

Four steps take place:

Step 1: Application for a VAT number for the yacht owning company, as a Portuguese taxpayer

Requirements:

  1. Relevant documents to prove the yacht owner’s identity.
  2. Power of Attorney from the yacht owner in favour of the relevant Dixcart company. This company will apply for a VAT number and will be registered as the yacht owner’s fiscal representative, for VAT purposes, with the Portuguese Tax Authorities.

Step 2: Preparation of the relevant VAT and other customs forms

Requirements:

  1. ‘Declaration of Conformity’.
  2. ‘Bill of Sale’ and related invoices.
  3. Customs in the Azores will make their own evaluation as to the value of the yacht.

Step 3: Importation

The Azores Customs Authority will:

  1. Survey the yacht.
  2. Calculate the applicable VAT on importation, and any other relevant charges.
  3. Implement the customs clearance.

Step 4: VAT payment

The Portuguese tax representative of the yacht owner (provided by Dixcart) will pay the VAT applicable on the yacht importation and will receive the following items:

  1. ‘Declaration of Importation’. This document confirms customs clearance for the yacht and details of the relevant VAT payment. It must be kept on board the yacht at all times.
  2. Receipt of payment.

Additional Information

If you require additional information regarding yacht importation using the Azores, please speak to your usual Dixcart contact or to Carlos Santos at the Dixcart office in Madeira: advice.portugal@dixcart.com.

Portugal Armed Guards

Portugal Armed Guards Allowed Onboard Portuguese Flagged Vessels, Where Piracy is Prevalent

New Law

On 10 January 2019, the Portuguese Council of Ministers approved a law to allow armed guards to sail on Portuguese flagged vessels.

This measure is long-awaited by the International Shipping Registry of Madeira (MAR) and by ship owners registered within it. The increase in financial loss due to hijackings and ransom demands, and the risk to human lives, as a result of hostage taking has led shipowners to demand such a of measure. Ship owners prefer to pay for additional protection rather than being potential victims of piracy.

Measures to Address the Increasingly Frequent Problem of Piracy

Unfortunately, piracy now constitutes a major threat to the shipping industry and it is recognised that the use of armed guards on board vessels is crucial to the decrease the number of piracy incidents.

The regime to be established by this law enables shipowners of Portuguese flagged vessels to hire private security companies, employing armed personnel to be on board ships, in order to protect these vessels when operating in areas of high piracy risk. The law also provides for the option to hire security contractors headquartered within the EU or EEA to protect Portuguese vessels.

Portugal will be joining the increasing number of ‘Flag States’ that allow the use of armed guards on board. This step is therefore logical and consistent with the actions being taken by a number of other countries.

Portugal and Shipping

As recently as November 2018 the Portuguese tonnage tax and seafarer scheme was enacted. The objective is to encourage new shipping companies by offering tax advantages, not only to shipowners, but also to seafarers. For more information regarding the advantages of the new Portuguese tonnage tax, please refer to the Dixcart Article: IN538 The Portuguese Tonnage Tax Scheme For Ships – What Benefits Will It Offer?.

The Madeira Shipping Registry (MAR): Other Advantages

This new law is designed to enhance Portugal’s shipping registry and Portugal’s second shipping register, the Madeira Registry (MAR). It is part of a comprehensive plan to develop the country’s entire maritime industry. This includes companies and individuals owning ships, shipping related infrastructure, maritime suppliers and those working in the maritime industry.

The Madeira Registry is already the fourth largest international shipping register within the EU. Its registered gross tonnage is over 15.5 million and its fleet comprises vessels from the largest shipowners such as APM-Maersk, MSC  (Mediterranean Shipping Company), CMA, CGM Group and Cosco Shipping. Please see: IN518 Why the International Shipping Register of Madeira (MAR) is so Attractive.

How Can Dixcart Help?

Dixcart has extensive experience working with the owners and operators of commercial vessels as well as pleasure and commercial yachts, registered with the Portuguese Registry and/or MAR. We can assist with the permanent and/or bareboat registration of vessels, re-flagging, mortgages and the establishment of corporate owning and/or operational structures for the holding or management of vessels.

Additional Information

If you require additional information on this topic, please speak to your usual Dixcart contact, or to Carlos Santos at the Dixcart office in Madeira:

advice.portugal@dixcart.com.

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

Madeira International Shipping Register

The Advantages of Registering a Vessel with the Madeira International Shipping Register (MAR)

Background

The objective of the Madeira International Shipping Register (MAR) is to offer a credible alternative to other international registers. The high quality and safety standards of a conventional register have been maintained within an attractive tax environment designed to encourage inward investment to the island of Madeira. Vessels registered with MAR carry the Portuguese flag and are subject to the International Treaties and Conventions entered into by Portugal.

Over half a million vessels are now registered with MAR and it is ranked the fourth international shipping register in the EU. Four of the largest ship-owners in the world, APM-Maersk, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), CMA CGM Group and Cosco Shipping, have ships registered with MAR, as recorded by the international analyst firm, Alphaliner.

Recent Developments of MAR

In 2017 a number of significant developments took place, increasing the attractiveness of registering a vessel in MAR:

  • The Madeira Shipping Register was “White Listed” on both the Paris MOU and the Tokyo MOU.*
  • Vessels under the Portuguese flag are included in the Qualship 21 Index of the United States of America. This certificate recognises the exceptional standards of the Register.
  • The Korean Register (KR), a member of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS), was granted authorisation by the Portugal Maritime Authority (DGRM) to deliver statutory services on behalf of the Portuguese flag. This authorisation enables the Korean Register to act as a Recognised Organisation (RO), conducting surveys and audits, and issuing certificates to Portuguese flagged ships, including those in Madeira, to ensure full compliance with SOLAS, MARPOL, ITC, ILL and MLC regulations.

*MOU: Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (MoU) and Tokyo (MoU).

Advantages of Registering a Vessel with MAR

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

  • Shipping companies licenced 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.        
  • The Register is of a high standard, has EU credibility and full access to EU cabotage.
  • It is not regarded by the International Transport Workers’ Federation as a flag of convenience.
  • There are no nationality requirements for ship owners of vessels registered in MAR and they are not required to have their head office in Madeira; it is sufficient to have local legal representation with adequate powers. Dixcart in Madeira can provide this service.
  • 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.
  • Registration fees are competitive and there are no annual tonnage taxes.
  • Generally, the captain and 50% of the crew of the ship must be “European”. This includes nationalities such as Polish, Russian and Ukrainian, as well as citizens of Portuguese-speaking countries, which allows for flexible manning.
  • Crew wages are exempt from income tax and social security charges in Portugal.
  • Temporary registration is allowed by law (bareboat charter: “In” and “Out”).
  • 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.

Additional Tax Advantages for Shipping Companies in Madeira

In addition, to the reduced corporate tax rates, Madeira shipping companies also enjoy exemption from withholding taxes on the distribution of dividends, exemption from withholding taxes on interest, royalties and service fees paid to non-residents, and exemption from capital duty, notary and registration fees. If certain requirements are met, shipping companies may also be exempt from capital gains tax when subsidiaries are sold.

Shipping companies can benefit from the Double Taxation Treaties with Portugal and Investment Protection Treaties signed by Portugal.

Summary

The approach adopted by MAR allows for flexibility. Depending on the circumstances, the ship can be registered on MAR with the shipping company licensed in another jurisdiction, OR the shipping company can be registered in Madeira with the vessel registered elsewhere, OR both the vessel and the shipping company can be licensed in Madeira. Each of these options offer various advantages.

How Can Dixcart Help?

Dixcart has extensive experience working with the owners and operators of commercial vessels as well as pleasure and commercial yachts. We can assist with the permanent and/or bareboat registration of vessels, re-flagging, mortgages, and the establishment of corporate owning or operational structures for the holding or management of vessels.

Additional Information

If you require additional information regarding the International Shipping Register of Madeira and the tax efficiencies available to ships owned by Portuguese companies registered in MAR, please contact Carlos Santos at the Dixcart office in Madeira: advice.portugal@dixcart.com