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On Friday 13th April, 2018 Legal Notices 127 and 128 were published amending Malta’s tonnage tax system in order to comply with the European Commission’s decision which was published at the end of last year. The new law will come into force on the 1st of May.

Legal Notice 128 seeks to clarify certain provisions relating to the applicability of Malta’s tonnage tax system and in particular it lists the type of vessels to which tonnage tax shall apply as well as those which are excluded. New provisions have also been included in relation to the treatment of tonnage tax benefits to (i) bareboat chartering; (ii) tugs; and (iii) dredgers.

A revised list of registration fees and tonnage tax payments have also been issued by Legal Notice 127 whereby a distinction has been made between the two and the possibility for non-Maltese companies owning vessels registered in Malta to opt to pay tonnage tax in Malta.



The European Commission on the 19th December, 2017 conditionally endorsed the Maltese tonnage tax system. Following such endorsement Legal Notices 127 and 128 have been published, which amend the current tonnage tax system. The new law will come into force on the 1st of May, 2018.

The salient features of the new law include the following:


  1. Ships excluded from the Tonnage Tax Regime


As will be highlighted later on, the Malta Tonnage Tax System, in line with EU Guidelines, will apply to ships which are involved in the international carriage of goods or passengers by sea. Therefore, in line with this reasoning the following vessels are excluded from benefiting from the Malta Tonnage Tax System:

(i)                Fishing Vessels;

(ii)               Private Yachts;

(iii)              Fixed offshore installations and floating storage units;

(iv)              Non-ocean going tug boats and dredgers;

(v)               Ships whose main purpose is to provide goods or services normally provided on land;

(vi)              Stationary ships employed for hotel and/or catering operations;

(vii)             Ships employed mainly as gambling and/or casinos;

(viii)             Non-propelled barges.


  1. Shipping Activities and Tonnage Tax


In order to qualify as a tonnage tax ship and thus benefit from the Malta tonnage tax system, the vessel has to be declared a tonnage tax ship by the Minister. Therefore, the Shipping Organisation which will own the vessel will need to show that the vessel is a sea-going vessel engaged in the international carriage of goods and/or passengers by sea. A number of documents would need to be provided to the Registrar-General in order for the vessel to be declared a tonnage tax ship.


Should the vessel qualify as a tonnage tax ship then the Shipping Organisation would not be liable to pay any income tax to the extent such income is derived from shipping activities. Furthermore, no income tax or capital gains will be paid on proceeds derived from the sale of a vessel which is declared a tonnage tax ship.


It is important that separate accounts are kept for the income derived from shipping activities and any other income derived from non-shipping activities. A simplified income tax return can be filed by the Malta Shipping Organisation for income derived from shipping activities. On the other hand, if the Shipping Organisation also derives income from non-shipping activities then the full income tax return would need to be filed.


The new law also seeks to clarify a number of grey areas in relation to Tugs and Dredgers. In order for these type of vessels to benefit from tonnage tax, they would need to be registered under an EU or EEA flag and spent at least 50% or more or their time in activity which constitutes maritime transport.


As regards to bareboat chartering, Shipping Organisations who derive income from chartering out vessels on a bareboat basis will benefit from the tonnage tax system if (i) the amount of the vessels bareboated out does not exceed 50% of the shipping companies’ fleet; (ii) the term of the bareboat is limited to a maximum period of 3 years; (iii) it is shown to the satisfaction of the Registrar General that the ship was bareboat chartered due to short term over capacity.


Furthermore, the new law provides for a list of vessels which to the extent that they are involved in  the  international  carriage  of  goods  or  passengers  by  sea  in accordance  with  the  EU  Maritime  State  Aid  Guidelines  and provided that they satisfy the criteria set out in the regulations, may also benefit from the tonnage tax system. These vessels include:

(i)          Cable laying ships;

(ii)         Pipe laying ships;

(iii)        Crane vessels;

(iv)        Research vessels; and

(v)         Multi-purpose, break-bulk and other types of support vessels.


Specified provisions have also been included in relation to tonnage tax ships which are owned by the Malta Shipping Organisation which however are not flagged in Malta. If such ships are flagged under an EU or EEA flag, then there is the option to pay the equivalent of 25% of the tonnage tax if the vessels had been registered in Malta to the relevant authority and such vessel would be entitled to benefit from the Malta tonnage tax system.


If however, the vessels are flagged under a non-EU flag, then it would be possible for such vessel to qualify for the Malta tonnage tax system if it is shown that the strategic / commercial management of all ships by such shipping organization is actually carried out from the EU and it is proved that the shipping organization owns, manages or operates at least 60% of its total tonnage under an EU flag or  percentage  of  the  tonnage  owned,  managed  or operated by the shipping organisation is Union-flagged and that the  percentage  of  Union-flagged  tonnage  that  is  owned, managed,  administered  or  otherwise  operated  by  shipping organisations established in Malta has not decreased on average over a period of three years. The law further provides that at least 25% of the applicable tonnage tax on such vessels is paid to the relevant authority in Malta.


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IMO and EBRD sign new partnership to support sustainable shipping

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has signed a new partnership agreement with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The agreement will help promote sustainable shipping through a range of safety- and environment-focused capacity-building activities in the maritime and port sectors in selected countries.

It brings together IMO, the United Nations maritime agency which sets global standards  for safe, secure, efficient and environment-friendly international shipping, and the multilateral development bank EBRD, which has experience in supporting comprehensive transport related development activities and practices in the maritime and port sectors.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on Thursday (8 February) by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim and the First Vice President of the EBRD, Phil Bennett. (Photos here.)

“This strategic partnership, combining IMO’s global mandate and outreach and EBRD’s experience and expertise on investment and finance, is expected to contribute a great deal to sustainable maritime transport and the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” said Secretary-General Lim.

As part of the United Nations family, IMO is actively working towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the associated SDGs. Most of the elements of the 2030 Agenda will only be realized with a sustainable transport sector supporting world trade and facilitating the global economy.

The IMO/EBRD MoU represents the first such arrangement to be established between IMO and a multilateral development bank.

In addition to providing investment financing, IMO and EBRD will work together under the agreement to provide technical advisory services, project preparation and planning, capacity building and institutional development, focusing initially on joint projects with the national authorities of Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey.

Gap analysis will be carried out with specific projects likely to focus on a range of safety- and environment-related issues, centred on implementing and enforcing IMO regulations.  These projects could include:

  •  investment opportunities in sustainable transport
  • safe transport of solid bulk cargoes and dangerous goods
  • facilitation of maritime traffic and electronic business and implementation of a maritime single window
  • identification of locations and business models for port reception facilities for ship-generated waste
  • sensitivity mapping and oil spill exercises
  • promoting acceptance and implementation of IMO’s 2012 Cape Town Agreement on fishing vessel safety
  • assessing emissions in ports and developing emission-reduction strategies;
  • looking at opportunities to improve ships in terms of reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy efficiency
  • potential regulatory and policy reforms associated with ships using shore-based power sources in port (known as ‘cold ironing’)
  • identifying opportunities to invest and propose investment for LNG bunkering infrastructure
  • risk assessments for marine bioinvasions and identifying key locations for port-based reception facilities and contingency measures, as well as appropriate commercial models.

Source: International Maritime Organization

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The Economic value of Malta’s Maritime Industry

This feature has no pretence to be a professional economic analysis of the contribution which the Maltese maritime industry makes to Malta’s gross domestic product. We hope that in the near future the Malta Maritime Forum will be able to undertake such a study which is essential to raise awareness about this industry.

What this paper aims to achieve instead is to highlight the economic drivers which are generated by the maritime industry but even then one has to narrow the definition of the term maritime industry because it is so vast and diverse that to make a reasonable assessment one has to segmentalize and focus. The focus here is on ships, terminals and related services such as ship repair.

According to Oxford Economics, the economic value of the EU shipping industry amounts to Euro 140 billion by way of total GDP contributions. The same analysis concluded that the EU shipping industry generates a total of 2.1 million jobs and, more important, that it has a multiplier effect of 2.6. Hence, crudely speaking, for every Euro 1 spent in this industry there is the creation of another Euro 2.6. One can go into much deeper analysis of these economic criteria to differentiate between direct and indirect impact as against induced impact or catalysed impact to assess the total impact of the shipping industry on the economy. However, as stated above, this is not the scope of this feature.

To understand better the economic value generated by the maritime industry, one can perhaps take into consideration the economic activity generated when a vessel enters our ports. Such a normal occurrence entails:

  • A communication system to record the ships arrival and an authority (Transport Malta) to ensure that the arriving vessel is conforming with rules and regulations applying to ships’ traffic and port entry.
  • A customs authority to control the movement of vessels, personnel and cargo.
  • A shipping agent to coordinate the ships’ arrivals and organise the services required.
  • A pilotage corps to provide qualified and professional pilots to assist a vessel to come into port.
  • Tug boats to assist the vessel during its manoeuvring operations.
  • Mooring men to moor the vessel to a quay.
  • A terminal where the ship is moored and where it can undertake its discharge / loading operations.
  • Stevedores and / or terminal operators to undertake the cargo operation.

Considering that in 2016 there were 13,090 ship calls, one can appreciate better the turnover generated by ships calling at Malta.

The list is endless if one were to factor in the range of services that a vessel might require while calling in a port or when a vessel is calling in Malta to undertake repairs and / or other services. Each one of these service providers is in turn employing personnel and generating economic turnovers which run into millions of Euro.

Taking some real examples, Malta Freeport Terminal employs 836 personnel and has invested over 270 million Euros since its privatisation. During 2017 Malta Freeport handled over 3.15 million TEU’s (20ft containers). The Valletta Gateway Terminal handles over 1,000 vessels per year, employs about 100 personnel and generates a turnover of over 12 million Euros.

These two terminals, apart from their own personnel, employ also the licensed stevedores who between full timers and casuals amount to almost 500 persons. Another 113 licensed hauliers (burdnara) are engaged in the transport of cargo from and to the terminals.

Other stake holders such as Palumbo Shipyards who undertakes ship repairs at Malta, employ a work force of about 220 persons and handle an average of 200 ships per year. It is estimated that over the last seven years this enterprise generated over 250 million Euros to the local economy. This is not taking into account other ship repair facilities such as Bezzina Ship Repair Yard Ltd (120 employees) and Cassar Ship Repair Ltd (150 employees). Other entities that go to make up this market segment include Medserv PLC (turnover of Euro 32.8 million in 2016) and Malta Maritime Hub (turnover of Euro 12.6 million in 2016). These are but a few examples of contributions that are made by the local maritime industry to the Maltese economy.

If one were to bring into this equation the Malta flag which is the sixth largest flag in the world and under which are registered 8,123 vessels, this contribution takes an even wider perspective with the inclusion of professional services such as legal and financial which in turn generate employment in interesting numbers. As things stand today, the income from this  market segment is mainly generated from services related to ship registration, but other countries, in competition with Malta, have managed to attract other services such as ship management, crewing and ship finance. In recent years Malta has attracted some key players from these activities, but more needs to be done to bring in more investment through these maritime activities which are not insignificant in terms of economic contribution. Just by way of example, ship management companies in Poland are estimated to generate on average 25 million Euros per annum to the Polish economy.

In Malta we have been fortunate that the maritime industry has always kept away from partisan politics and all administrations have realised and supported the positive value of this industry. It is however a considerate opinion that more value can be obtained from this industry by having more focus from the administration and long term planning with a holistic approach to guide within the geographical constraints of Malta and the environmental considerations that need be respected to strike an appropriate balance.

The local maritime industry has come a long way in its development but the opportunities that still need to be tapped are enormous and time is of the essence.

Source: Times of Malta

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Blue economy initiative by Malta Marittima

The sustainable development for a blue economy in the western Mediterranean is an initiative by Mediterranean countries aimed at improved governance in the region, safety and security and economic growth.

The initiative reaffirms that a prerequisite for growth is innovation. Joining forces on marine observation, marine knowledge and cluster co-operation is key to the successful implementation of the strategy.

In creating the conditions for sustainable investment, the need to invest in people has not been overlooked. Through new forms of traineeships and exchanges between training institutes, participating States are set to prepare today’s youth for the maritime jobs of tomorrow.

The western Mediterran­ean region has 200 ports and terminals representing close to 40 per cent of values in goods transport. It is a traditional, consolidated tour­ist destination and it has the high­est share of total tour­ist arrivals, with millions visiting its coastal areas.

It is a hotspot for biodiversity with hundreds of marine protected areas and Natura 2000 sites. The western Mediterranean region is facing growing socio-economic and environmental pressure due to a longstanding economic and financial crisis.

Youth unemployment rates are very high all around the western Mediterranean, accounting from a minimum of 14 per cent to a maximum 58 per cent. The maritime workforce is also ageing in the EU Member States, while careers in some maritime sectors are no longer attracting young people.

In turn, businesses do not have access to the desired skills and knowledge in either traditional or emerging maritime sectors, and are facing a shortage in the needed labour force.

The initiative offers significant opportunities for the development of new technologies, bio-based innovative industries, particularly if such an effort is primarily focused to develop sustainable products and encourage the development of technologies and tailor-made solutions to mitigate climate change. The other traditional economic sectors remain important but efforts are needed to ascertain their sustainability.

The first steering committee meeting will be held on Thursday, during which partners will discuss the way forward. To this end, local maritime stakeholders should keep abreast with the development of the initiative to make sure they do not miss the boat.

Source: Times of Malta

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Encouraging international support for improvement to maritime laws

Representatives from 58 countries discuss recognition of judicial sales

Representatives from 58 countries were in Malta on Tuesday to discuss an important step forward for the international maritime industry: the recognition of judicial sales.

The meeting was organised by the Comité Maritime International (CMI) and co-hosted by the Transport Ministry. The CMI is a non-governmental non-profit organisation which contributes to the unification of maritime law in all its aspects.

This issue was first brought to the attention of CMI by Henry Li of the China Maritime Law Association in 2007, who highlighted the problems arising around the world from the failure in some jurisdictions to give recognition to judgments in other jurisdictions when the sale of ships had been ordered.

In 2014, the International Working Group concluded its work with a draft instrument, and the CMI is hopeful that UNCITRAL will agree to put it on its work agenda when it meets in July 2018. The instrument will be called the Malta Colloquium.

Addressing the meeting, Transport Minister Ian Borg said Malta was often the jurisdiction of choice when it comes to arresting vessels and proceeding to enforce rights against ships, which often leads to judicial sales or court approved private sales.

“Malta has a responsibility pertaining to the interests of all stakeholders, including that of the financiers who have registered their mortgages in the country,” he said.

In 2006, Malta’s introduced a mechanism to increase the remedies that could be used by creditors against defaulting debtors, that is the sale of vessels approved by court. This created a procedure that best suited the mortgagee, while giving peace of mind as well as a solid and stable environment.

“Naturally, it is crucial to ensure that vessels get the best price during such sales, and this can only be achieved by obtaining the comfort of international recognition of the judicial sale, a comfort which can only come about through the adoption and implementation of an international standard,” he explained.

CMI President Stuart Hetherington said that thanks to the Maltese government a multitude of countries were being represented during this colloquium.

Source: Times of Malta

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Modern maritime technologies: do we have the skills?

Like everywhere else, world digitalization, high-tech equipment and low-carbon solutions are affecting the workplace of the maritime world. Preparing the workforce for such trends is crucial to ensure a competitive European maritime sector. But what will be the profiles needed for the jobs of tomorrow? How can we make sure that people are strongly qualified for the many attractive and high quality jobs European seas have to offer?

To address these questions the Commission has launched, as part of the New Skills Agenda, a new cooperation platform between several key stakeholders called Blueprint for skills cooperation.

For the maritime technology sector, the Spanish Foundation CETMARis in charge of leading the EU partnership composed of 17 partners who today have met in Brussels to kick-off the work. Composed of both educational and industrial representatives, the partnership will explore the skills required by modern maritime technologies and the possible ways to match future demand and supply. They will conceive the profiles and curricula of tomorrow and propose concrete actions to be rolled out at national and regional level to bridge the gap between the training offer and the actual needs of the industry. By helping the sector to adapt the education to prepare the future workforce, this initiative seeks to empower the various strands of the maritime industry and boost its performance for years to come.

Source: DG Mare

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Connecting Europe Facility on track to deliver results

Today, the Commission adopted the report on the mid-term evaluation of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). The evaluation assessed the programme’s overall performance in light of its objectives, and what has been achieved to date. Regarding transport financing, the report recognises that CEF has brought a clear added value, in particular for the completion of the TEN-T core network by 2030 and for the low-emission mobility ambition.

The conclusions of the evaluation, as well as the on-going consultation on strategic infrastructure funding, will provide recommendations for the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework and the next generation of financial programmes.

CEF is a key EU funding instrument promoting growth, jobs and competitiveness through targeted infrastructure investment at EU level. It supports the development of high performing, sustainable and efficiently interconnected trans-European networks in the fields of transport, energy and digital services. In the field of transport, CEF currently supports over 641 projects with EU funding of €22.3 bn.

Source: DG Move

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Maritime transport: LNG bunkering guidance for port authorities and administrations

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has published a guidance document on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) bunkering for port authorities and administrations. The document aims at backing the use of LNG as a ship fuel, as part of a joint effort to increase sustainability.

The guidance was prepared in close cooperation with the European Commission, Member States and stakeholders within the context of the European Sustainable Shipping Forum.

LNG as a marine fuel provides an alternative to traditional fuels by emitting fewer pollutants, such as SOx and NOx. The LNG Bunkering guidance becomes another element in the EU strategy to support the development of alternative fuels for shipping foreseen by Directive 2014/94/EU.

Alternative shipping fuels are also supported through funding instruments, including the Green Shipping Guarantee (GSG) programme, whose first transaction was recently announced for the financing of a LNG powered ferry expected to enter into service in 2019.

Source: DG Move

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Transport Malta and Malta Maritime Forum consolidate business relationship

On January 19, under the patronage of Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects Ian Borg, Transport Malta and the Malta Maritime Forum consolidated their business relationship through the signing of a memorandum of understanding.

Transport Malta has the mission to promote and develop the transport sector in Malta by means of proper regulation and through the promotion and development of related services, businesses and other interests both locally and internationally.

The mission of the Malta Mari­time Forum is to serve as a common platform for those Malta-based entities involved in the maritime, logistical and transport sector in Malta.

The MMF facilitates communication between the various sectors as well as with government to assist and promote the deve­lopment of the maritime industry in general.

“Malta has a natural potential to continue consolidating its position as an excellent leading maritime centre in the Mediterranean,” Dr Borg said.

He added that Malta’s political stability, EU membership, a clear commitment to support business development of high added value services, an attractive fiscal regime, a well-respected flag, a robust legislative framework and an efficient administration create the right environment for this industry to be further consolidated and to prosper.

Dr Borg augured both Transport Malta and the MMF to continue with their efforts and to have a pi­vo­tal role in defining and achieving value targets for Malta to become a centre of maritime excellence.

James Piscopo, Transport Malta CEO and chairman, explained that their cooperation with the MMF has been ongoing since the forum’s inception two years ago. The two sides decided to consolidate their working relationship through the memorandum.

MMF chairman Joe Borg appreciated the open approach adopted by Transport Malta in relation to the MMF’s various initiatives and thanked both the minister as well as Mr Piscopo for their continued recognition and support to the MMF and its extended line of members who represented the very wide spectrum of the maritime and logistics sector within Malta.

The MMF was also representing Malta’s interests on the European aspects through its active participation as a member of the European Network of Maritime Clusters.

Mr Piscopo signed the memorandum on behalf of Transport Malta whereas Dr Borg as chairman and Joseph Bugeja as CEO and board member, signed on behalf of the MMF.

Transport Malta officials and MMF board members were also present for the signing of the memorandum.

Source: Times of Malta

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The relevance of short sea shipping to maritime industry

The European Union has, since its foundation, recognised the relevance of facilitating the free movement of goods between its Member States as this fosters trade and growth.

Over the years, the EU gave more impetus to short sea shipping (SSS), which can be considered as the movement of cargo by sea both intra Europe, as well as between EU Member States and other countries in the proximity of Europe, such as those bordering the Mediterranean.

In 2001 the EU launched the concept of SSS which laid down the basic objectives, namely: freight flow concentration on sea-based logistical routes; increased cohesion; and reducing road congestion through modal shift.

The EU came to the conclusion that SSS offers a set of positive features that no other mode of transport can provide, especially in relation to the environmental considerations for the transport of large volumes of cargo.

This European outlook has a geo-economic relevance in that around 70 per cent of European industrial production is located within 150-200km from sea, 40 per cent of EU population live in EU coastal regions, and there are over 1,200 commercial seaports operating along EU coasts that cover a length of 70,000km.

To promote this modal shift, the EU set up specific financing programmes including: the Pilot Action for Combined Transport between 1997-2001 with a fund of €22.4 million, €102 million in Marco Polo I between 2003-2006, €450 million in Marco Polo II between 2007 and 2011 and €8 billion on the Ten T programme between 2007-2013.

The question is how much has Malta benefitted from these programmes and what can Malta do to integrate itself better into these schemes?

Malta has a unique position in the reality of SSS because the lack of a domestic market is amply overcome by the fact that Malta is an island and relies on the sea for its trade. Hence the relevance of these EU programmes should not be underestimated because Malta has a crucial role to play and stands to benefit financially if the local maritime industry is in line with the mechanics of such funding programmes.

One of the areas that Malta has to address is the removal of bureaucratic obstacles that hinder the free flow of cargo. As things stand at present, cargo imported in containers is discriminated against when compared with cargo arriving by trailer. Whereas the latter mode of transport is afforded direct clearance from port and delivery to the receiver, containers suffer a longer port stay even if only in terms of days.

Our port infrastructure has to be developed to permit more berths for vessels calling at Malta. For this purpose the EU votes substantial funding to assist in the infrastructural development of ports, terminals and warehousing. The local approach whereby ports and terminals are considered to be a public service, needs readdressing through private public partnerships in order to attract investment in these sectors both by local enterprise as well as foreign entities. After all, this is already evidenced in Malta through the models of Malta Freeport Terminals, Valletta Gateway Terminal and Valletta Cruise Port.

Development of other terminals and berths in Malta should not be considered a public investment exercise, but rather a means to attract private investment from within this sector. Such a development can be eligible for partial funding through the Motorways of the Sea Pillar 11, which is earmarked for port infrastructure and upgrade of maritime links. The intention on this EU finance package is to develop port infrastructure, handling facilities, freight terminals and logistics platforms to improve port access.

If one were to look at the experiences of other European countries, such as Spain, Italy, Norway and Finland, one can note a number of projects which these countries managed to realise within the ambit of short sea shipping and financed, in part or in full by EU funds.

Although Malta is synonymous with the role of a maritime nation, enough is never enough, and the next step is to develop a comprehensive long-term plan for our ports infrastructure, together with a marketing plan to prioritise the activities best suited for our ports in terms of cost and benefit. Moreover, Malta should embark on an investment promotion campaign aimed specifically at attractive investment in maritime infrastructure.

A forum such as the Malta Maritime Forum is the ideal vehicle to co-ordinate such efforts together with government, so that we produce a cohesive and comprehensive programme.

The land limitation should not be a deterrent to further development in this area which, as evidenced by developments in other European countries can be undertaken within the balance of environmental and socio-political exigencies.

From research undertaken by our company, we have established that there are over 170 different shipping services going by Malta on a west-east Mediterranean trajectory and another 50 on a north to south axis. If Malta were to attract even a small fraction of this short sea traffic, Malta’s seaborne trade would increase exponentially generating a multiplier of economic activity that is characteristic of the maritime industry.

Godwin Xerri is managing director of Combined Maritime Services and a member of the Malta Maritime Forum. The opinion expressed by the author does not necessarily reflect the position of the Malta Maritime Forum.

Source: Times of Malta

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