Maltese Minister for Transport & Infrastructure Joe Mizzi told the audience at the fifth ‘Opportunities in Superyachts’ conference today. David Robinson reports.

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Joe Mizzi

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Joe Mizzi delivers the opening speech of the Opportunities in Superyachts 2017 conference. Photo credit DOI – Clodagh Farrugia O’Neill

Malta’s vision is to develop the island as a leading maritime and yachting hub in the Mediterranean, Maltese Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Joe Mizzi told the audience at the fifth ‘Opportunities in Superyachts’ conference today.

“During the last year, the Malta flag registered a record increase of over 14% in the registration of superyachts over 24m,” Mizzi said, “thus making the Malta flag the jurisdiction of choice and one of the leaders in this sector with nearly 600 superyachts registered. Malta’s ship register has grown not only in numbers, but also in repute, and today the country is increasingly adding high-class ships and yachts to its fleet.”

The minister continued: “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. The success of this conference in our country demonstrates the interest in this niche industry and it is indicative of the international positioning that the local industry has managed to achieve.

According to Mizzi, being the largest maritime flag in Europe gives Malta a lot of confidence and drive to replicate that success in the superyacht sector. “Particularly, that we want to further develop the yachting cluster where Malta can attract and support the growth of a number of businesses and that at the heart of this cluster we want to further develop a jurisdiction that enjoys the confidence of the operators and respected by the industry,” he commented.

Yachting hub

The Minister spoke of the importance of Malta’s geographical position and its special strategic importance. He emphasised that a politically stable environment; a positive relationship with other EU Member States, a clear commitment to support 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.

“Today the Mediterranean region is a popular global tourist destination and provides some of the world’s most fascinating yachting experiences,” Mizzi said. “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 superyacht service industry,” he said.

He reported: “As a government, we are proud to have reacted swiftly, publishing and implementing the Guidelines for VAT applicable for short-term charters, thus eliminating uncertainty and making Malta one of the first European countries with a clearly defined policy. We are also proud of being the first jurisdiction to introduce guidelines on the carriage capacity of pleasure yachts to carry more than 12 persons – a policy that was welcomed by the industry.”

EC Presidency

Similarly, he added that the inclusion of maritime affairs, including yachting, as a priority area during the current Presidency of the European Council, is a strong statement towards the importance given by Malta to this sector. There can be no doubt that the government considers this specific industry to be crucial to future economic growth and diversification.

“Malta has done well in building fiscal, legal, and 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,” he said.

“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, and 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,” Mizzi added.

He remarked: “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. Evenly we must also increase our promotion of Malta as a pick up and end destination for charters, and close the gaps in crew training and qualification services.”

Malta is, and shall continue to be, fully supportive of the European Unions’ efforts to develop maritime policy further, the minister reported. “We are reinforcing a stronger dialogue with the industry in view of the current Presidency of the European Council. The main objective is to create a better understanding between the policy makers and regulators and the industry stakeholders with the aim of creating more visibility with the policy makers of the benefits of the maritime industry, including yachting, for the EU to continue to prosper.”