The Merchant Shipping Directorate’s new Pleasure Yacht Changeover Guidelines

27 Oct 2021

5 min read

Author: Ann Bugeja

The Merchant Shipping Directorate of Transport Malta has issued the ‘Commercial Yacht – Pleasure Yacht Guidelines (‘the Guidelines’) on the 2nd of September 2021. The Guidelines provide carefully devised considerations for yacht owners who wish to make the change from a commercial yacht to a pleasure yacht or vice-versa and highlight every step of the process.

The changeover from commercial to a pleasure yacht requires the resident agent to submit a request, detailing the changeover. Furthermore, a confirmation of such a change is required from the owner or the manager of the yacht, as applicable, together with the return of the current commercial yacht Certificate of Registry (‘COR’) to the Flag Administration once the new COR denoting the change in description to a pleasure yacht, is received on board. Certificates previously held which relate to the Yacht’s status as a commercial yacht, such as the Certificate of Compliance to trade as a Commercial Yacht and all other related commercial yacht statutory certificates are to be kept in the yacht’s safe, under the responsibility of the Master.

The same initial steps for the changeover from a commercial yacht to a pleasure yacht shall apply with the slight difference that aside from sending the aforementioned documents to the Flag Administration, they shall also be sent to the Appointed Surveyor and/or the Classification Society Surveyor, as applicable. However, there are a few more steps which owners or managers of Pleasure Yachts making the change need to undertake.

If a yacht was not previously registered as a commercial yacht, the owner or manager of the yacht is to request the services of either the responsible Appointed Government Surveyor (the ‘Surveyor’) or Classification Society. The resident agent is to request the Merchant Shipping Directorate to authorise the respective Surveyor or Classification Society to issue any such necessary statutory certificates. If there is a satisfactory outcome of the initial surveys, the Surveyor or the Classification Society are to confirm compliance with the Malta Commercial Yacht Code (the ‘CYC’) and send any relevant reports, for review and for the issuance of the Certificate of Compliance to trade as a commercial yacht.

If the yacht was previously registered as a commercial yacht, in compliance with the CYC, the owner and/or manager of the yacht are to request the services of the Surveyor or the Classification Society.

If the yacht has no overdue survey and no expired certificates, there is no need for the Surveyor or Classification Society to attend onboard and in this case, the Yachting Section will receive a declaration issued by the Surveyor or Classification Society confirming that there are no expired certificates or overdue surveys, as well as a declaration from the Master with a confirmation from the date of the last periodical survey that the Yacht has not sustained any damages or changes which affect any of the relevant documents and certificates which are imperative for the operation of the Yacht.

If the yacht has overdue surveys or expired certificates, the Surveyor or Classification Society are to attend onboard and are to carry out the following due diligence tasks:

  • If the survey outcome is satisfactory, in line with the requirements of the CYC, the Surveyor and/or the Classification Society shall confirm that the Yacht is in compliance with the CYC and that there are no overdue surveys or expired certificates.
  • The confirmation of the above requirements, together with the necessary survey reports are to be sent to the Yachting Section and if the review is a satisfactory one, a new Certificate to Trade as a Commercial Yacht is issued, or the validity of the existing one is confirmed.

Once the above documentation and any such necessary fees have been settled, when applicable, the Flag Administration will issue a commercial yacht COR and upon receipt onboard of the novel COR which must highlight the change in the description, the previously applicable COR shall immediately be withdrawn and sent to the Flag Administration.

The Guidelines issued by the Merchant Shipping Directorate provide further clarity on how the change of registration status of the yacht is to be carried out and clearly underlines every step of the process. Furthermore, the guidelines highlight that in the case of multiple changeovers during a single year, any such relevant fees payable to Transport Malta are only paid once and not during each changeover.

The Guidelines do not impose a specific limit on the number of changes that can be made, nor do they set out a time limit on the duration of the changes that are made in the process of the change. From analysing the substantive nature of the Guidelines, it is clear that the Guidelines offer a clear and concise framework for yacht owners, which makes the changeover from a Commercial Yacht to a Pleasure Yacht (and vice versa) a flexible, but direct one.