Malta is located in the centre of the Mediterranean, 93 km to the south of Sicily and 290 km to the north of Africa, at the crossroads of Southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Malta’s strategic position has, since time immemorial, placed the island at the forefront in the maritime sphere. At the heart of the Mediterranean and in the middle of one of the major shipping arteries Malta has attracted the attention of the great powers dominating their time.
In the early 1500s, Malta was ruled by the Order of St. John (later known as the Knights of Malta) who enhanced Malta’s maritime position through the construction of a shipyard facility. In June 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte on his way to Egypt eyed the maritime importance of Malta and snatched it from the hands of the Knights. The importance of Malta as a maritime hub was well known and the British took over the island after just a couple of years of French rule. Over the years the maritime activity was further improved and modernized and became one of the most valuable assets of the British empire in the Mediterranean for around 150 years.
Independence to modern day
Malta became a State for all facts and purposes on the 21st September 1964, the day in which it acquired its independence. It was time to change from an island fortress (military) economy to a market economy. Malta continued to take advantage of its maritime assets and has been ever since renowned for its well equipped ports, skilful seamen and has made excellent use of its position to enhance international trade. The Merchant Ensign was adopted on 12th November 1965. The design of the Malta Flag is similar to the flag flown by the Knights of the Order of St. John in Malta up to 1798 to which a white border has been added.
Established in 1973 as an Open Register of Shipping under the Homeport ‘Valletta’, Malta has become a renowned international ship register which offers ancillary services such as ship supplies and towage services, bunkering, shipyards, shipbuilding & repair as well as facilities such as a Freeport and Yachting Marinas.
The regulator of the Malta Flag, the Malta Maritime Authority, was set up in 1991. It was designed to administer the Malta Registry of Shipping and Seamen. At the beginning of 2010, the Malta Maritime Authority has been incorporated into a wider organization, namely Transport Malta (TM) which has assumed overall responsibility for maritime, land and air transport.
The Malta Flag has experienced significant and constant growth since its birth and is today the largest in Europe and the sixth largest in the world in terms of tonnage. After joining the EU in 2004 Malta has managed to retain and even went on to strengthen its international status as one of the top maritime flags, not only in terms of size but perhaps more importantly in terms of quality and profile developing into a very attractive, reliable and solid European flag.