The third annual Opportunities in Superyachts Conference was held at the Westin Dragonara in Malta on March 26 2015. As in previous years, the conference attracted a substantial number of local and foreign lawyers, marina and yard representatives, yacht and insurance brokers and financiers and audit firms.
Over the past eight years Malta has enjoyed success within the superyacht sector, steadily increasing the volume of its registered fleet and the number of yachts which are not necessarily registered in Malta but which have otherwise benefited from the solutions offered by the jurisdiction. As such, it is unsurprising that the presentations and panel discussions largely focused on what Malta offers owners and operators of private and commercial yachts.
During the conference, José Herrera – Parliamentary Secretary for Competitiveness and Economic Growth – referred to an announcement made in February 2015 by Transport Malta (the Maltese regulatory body in charge of shipping matters), which revealed a 13.6% increase in the registration of commercial yachts over 2014. The conference also coincided with the launch of Yachting Malta Ltd – a partnership between the government and the Royal Malta Yacht Club – which has the sole objective of promoting Malta as a leading destination for high-profile yachting events.
While undoubtedly representing the cornerstone of a maritime nation’s portfolio, success is not measured solely by the amount of registered tonnage or size of a jurisdiction’s flag – although Malta is the largest European flag and the sixth largest in the world, with latest published figures indicating that Malta has 292 privately registered yachts over 24 metres and 160 commercially registered yachts over 24 metres as of December 2014.
James Lawson – who chaired the conference – spoke of Malta as the “neatest and safest” option, not only with regard to registration requirements (leaving aside temporary importation scenarios where a non-EU flag would be mandatory), but also with regard to its corporate services, tax planning, general efficiency and consistently high-level service. The third session of the conference focused on tax, value added tax (VAT), corporate ownership and registration, which were exhaustively covered by means of an excellent presentation delivered by Janet Xanthopoulos, head of the yacht division of Monaco-based Monoeci Management.
A panel discussion after the main presentation identified and discussed key topics, including: the impact of the application of VAT on charters in Malta; the accounting of VAT on imports of commercial yachts in Malta; and the security that Maltese law offers financiers. Other significant topics of discussion were the increases in owners registering their yachts under EU flags – which is seen as one of the factors contributing to Malta’s success – and various instances of owners choosing to switch their yachts from commercial use to private use. The panel’s concluding comments identified Malta as a leading example of the importance of EU member states maintaining tax regimes that are beneficial (as opposed to punitive) to owners in order for the sector to thrive.
Contributed by Fenech & Fenech Advocates ILO