The jurisdiction of choice

As Government we are committed to continue supporting the yachting industry by eliminating uncertainty, ensuring a level playing field and creating the right environment for this industry to flourish more

Over the past weeks, I made it my utmost priority to meet as many stakeholders as possible to understand the intricacies of important industries for Malta’s economy: one of them being the yachting industry.

It took me no time to realise that a lot has been done and nowadays Malta has been well placed as a world leader in this industry and this in a relatively short time. This was only possible thanks to the hard work and commitment of the authorities and stakeholders who have put Malta on the yachting world map.

But going forward Malta’s vision is to further develop the Island as a leading yachting hub in the Mediterranean. During a two-day symposium organised by the Chamber of Commerce and the Malta Maritime Law Association: the Malta Superyacht Symposium, I told stakeholders that during the last 5 years, the Malta flag registered a record increase of over 51% in the registration of super yachts over 24 metres – thus making the Malta flag, the jurisdiction of choice and one of the leaders in this sector with over 1,030 super yachts registered. This is a record growth never registered before and that gives us more strength to continue working harder.

Malta’s ship register has grown not only in numbers but also in reputation, and today, the country is increasingly adding high-class yachts to its fleet. This is also a result of the good quality of service backed by various initiatives and strategies in favour of the industry offering a holistic package, which is recognised by owners and industry stakeholders worldwide.

Being the largest maritime flag in Europe gives us a lot of confidence and drive to replicate that success in the superyacht sector. But particularly, we want to further develop the yachting cluster where Malta can attract and support the growth of a number of businesses. At the heart of this cluster, we want to further develop a jurisdiction that enjoys the confidence of the operators and is respected by the industry.

Malta’s geographical position has always given the island a special strategic importance -- be it for trade, war, or pleasure. Today the Mediterranean region is a popular global tourist destination and provides some of the world’s most fascinating yachting experiences. With the most appealing setting and a comprehensive range of facilities, Malta offers a vast range of services: yards, marinas, surveying and multi-service agencies. This all creates the right environment for the island to become a resourceful service centre for every aspect of the superyachts service industry. This should be our collective objective in the years to come.

A politically stable environment, a positive relationship with other EU Member States, a clear commitment to support the business development of high added value services, an attractive fiscal regime, a well respected flag, and an efficient administration create the right environment for this industry to further consolidate and prosper.

Malta has done well in building fiscal, legal, corporate and registration services. While it is imperative that we continue to develop these, it is also time to shift our focus to other offerings which are even more “value-added” and strategically important. It is time to consolidate and explore other opportunities in these areas.

This industry took off on the basis of location, low cost, duty-free fuel and fiscal incentives, but has to continue evolving. We must be a stronger alternative, based on capabilities, improved infrastructure, competence, level of service, reputation and strong relationships.

We simply cannot risk becoming comfortable and run the risk of letting our laws, our regulation and our businesses become out of date. The creativity of others is real and exists.

The benefit of an increased market share and of being one of the largest flag administrations in the world offers Malta visibility and confidence to venture into new territory. Hence, our next challenge is to support the growth of maritime clusters, providing technical services and ensuring that Malta becomes the obvious choice for superyacht owners and managers for their wintering, maintenance and repairs. We must also increase our promotion of Malta as a pickup and end destination for charters, and close the gaps in crew training and qualification services.

Malta shall also continue to represent the industry and its issues at international level. We have had numerous opportunities, at different fora, to make representations to our Mediterranean neighboring countries, to the Commission, to the Council, and at IMO and we shall seize similar opportunities in the future.

As Government we are committed to continue supporting the yachting industry by eliminating uncertainty, ensuring a level playing field and creating the right environment for this industry to flourish more.

Our ‘can-do’ approach is what makes Malta unique. Simple, transparent legislation and procedures and access to key decision-makers make Malta the embodiment of ‘small is beautiful’. The best testimony to this is the experience of the major players who have been in Malta for years. I am not saying that there is no room for improvement or that the authorities do not sometimes fall short of the client’s expectations. But there is a genuine, open approach to guide and assist owners, managers and captains in the process of regulating them.

Our role as regulator and promoter of the yachting industry is to steer the economy and not to row it. We are at a particular juncture in economic transformation. I feel confident to say today that we have the right investment climate to position Malta as a key base from which to manage maritime and yachting services and assets. I am aware that we need to continue to invest, especially in the education of professionals in the sector. These sectors are based on people and the key to prosper in them is in people. But we have surely come a long way and today we are here to take our efforts to the next stage.

Malta has achieved a lot and is very well positioned to make a higher leap and reinforce itself as one of the main players in this important industry. I am confident that with a healthy dialogue with all stakeholders this will be achieved.

The yachting industry presents a real opportunity but also a number of challenges. Challenges, which present themselves both on a micro-level for business operators and entrepreneurs in the sector but also for the Government. The Government is committed to overcome these challenges and to continue supporting initiatives from the private sector that are in line with a reinforced industry which is stronger, more selective and targets a higher level of “value-added” and return opportunities.

It is our responsibility, as Government, to support industry initiatives that translate our vision into tangible action. We must take Malta from its position within the industry to an even better one. So while we have our eyes on the future, we already have our feet on the ground, making the future a reality. This can only be achieved with the continued support and cooperation of all stakeholders.

The Government’s challenge now is to consolidate and expand further, together with the private sector, in order to promote this sector that surely will contribute towards developing Malta into a leading yachting hub. As a government we are committed to continue supporting the yachting industry by eliminating red tape, continually promoting our position and the services we will be offering. We will create an ecosystem that rivals the best, above all we will see to it that we have a trained workforce. And to complement all this, there is the work that is currently underway and that will pave the path for the regeneration of the Grand Harbour, as well as land reclamation that offers areas of excellence for this economic niche for our country.

Just as Malta has become a global leader in ship registration, and as a transhipment hub, so too Malta’s vision is to develop the island as a leading yachting hub in the Mediterranean. This industry took off on a strong basis but now must continue evolving on another level. We must be a stronger alternative and above all, agile and flexible. We cannot find comfort in yesterday’s practices, laws and regulations, which is why we will now be working on a new national policy for the yachting industry in Malta.

This Government is determined and remains committed to actively promote and support the yachting industry. We appeal for vision and the courage to change and invest -- that has always served this country best.