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Superyacht Business
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  14  WWW.SUPERYACHTBUSINESS.NET | FEBRUARY 2014 Infrastructure MALTA: Island of potential Interest in Malta as both a flag registry and a destination for superyachts is rising. But how are local businesses increasing their appeal and what lies in the future? JULIET BENNING REPORTS WITH A DRY climate that provides ideal conditions for refit work all year round, and located in the centre of the Med, Malta certainly ticks some of the boxes highest on the list when it comes to refit. Yet it seems that the country is failing to exploit its resources to the best of its abilities. Raising awareness of the wealth of opportunities the superyacht industry can bring, the “Malta, a better destination for superyachts” conference, held last September, highlighted some of the ways in which the country can improve. SB   was at the event and has spoken to several key local figures in the following months to find out how plans are being implemented. Presumably motivated by a less than robust economy, Malta has already begun a campaign targeting HNWIs by selling citizenship for €650,000. The controversial scheme aims to attract individuals from countries as China and Russia, allowing them to buy citizenship into the European Union, which Malta joined in 2004. With this plan the island also hopes to raise its international profile by attracting famous celebrities and sports stars. The scheme coincides with Malta’s bid to raise its profile as a cultural hub as it prepares to host the Presidency for the Council in the EU in 2017, and for Valletta to serve as European Capital for Culture in 2018. Also in the air is a zeitgeist which reflects the island’s desire to collaborate with other European countries thereby attempting to eliminate its sometimes parochial tendencies. Rich pickings Although there has been criticism that the island will now attract tycoons looking for a convenient place to protect their assets from tax collectors, the influx of these super successful foreigners is bound to have a positive impact on the yachting industry and the winds of change are prompting the island to step up a pace. Over the past seven years the National Maritime Administration (Transport Malta) has made a concerted effort to attract superyachts to the country. The Malta registry has already been feeling the warming economic waters and has experienced unparalleled success with the merchant fleet — Malta is currently the largest flag in Europe and the seventh largest in the world. Alison Vassallo, senior associate at Fenech & Fenech Advocates reveals, “Figures that have recently been published by the Malta registry indicate that Transport Malta has registered a record year in 2013, with a solid performance and strong improvement in ship and yacht registration. There has been overall registered growth of 13.6 per cent, equivalent to over 6 million gross tonnes (bringing the fleet to a record 51.8 million gross tonnes), and a growth of 18.1 per cent in the registration of superyachts over 24 metres in length over the previous year.” From a jurisdictional aspect the island has become more attractive since the launch by the Maltese government in July 2013 of the more favourable guidelines on the VAT treatment of short-term charters commencing in Malta. Stable jurisdiction The country, entrenched in maritime affairs, also has a solid track record as a stable  jurisdiction. It has proven to be popular with owners and financiers of both private and commercial yachts with regard to their flagging requirements and also their financing, chartering, importation, yacht leasing and general fiscal requirements. Vassallo tells SB  , “A strong point which needs to be emphasised is the excellent relations which the private sector enjoys with the local authorities and how this strengthens the overall efficiency and service that can be offered to yacht owners, financiers, yards, project managers, brokers and other key players using Malta and the options that it offers.”But the take-up for yachts looking for refit and winterization in Malta has still been slow and facilities are not being exploited to their potential. A visit would Valletta, the historic capital of Malta is a great place to start a charter    P    h   o   t   o   :   ©    v    i   e   w    i   n   g   m   a    l   t   a .   c   o   m  The setting of Camper & Nicholsons’ Grand Harbour Marina, Vittoriosa 16  WWW.SUPERYACHTBUSINESS.NET | FEBRUARY 2014 X  Infrastructure  ,QGLD   M A LTA ors ca Sicily Sardinia  Gulf of Sirte  Algiers   Benghazi Tripoli Tirane  ALBANIA TUNISIA Rome Z Palermo:  162nm Z Monaco:  574nm Z Dubrovnik:  447nm Z Palma de Majorca:  612nm   DISTANCE FROM VALLETTA The yard is busier and busier; we noticed that the enquires are increasing as well as the size of the yachts visiting our yard   The e ar si s th undoubtedly reassure any captain that the island has the essentials: an accommodating tax regime, ease of import, good transport links, local purchasing, support services (legal, financial), widely spoken English, a convenient position in Med, haulout facilities and long stay appeal. So why is the message failing to reach the decision makers? Crew demands Without further investigation Malta is often mistaken as a holiday destination for retired people. To attract influential crew, Malta needs to convince them it has a lifestyle to match their often demanding appetites. It would also be advantageous if training opportunities were present — something the government is keen to invest in. Additionally, although the international airport is well connected, members of the superyacht industry feel the country’s appeal would increase considerably with a direct flight connection to the South of France. Dr Edward Zammit Lewis, the parliamentary secretary for competitiveness and economic growth, assured delegates at the September conference that he would look into establishing this route, although he was unavailable for comment as to what the present developments with this proposal were. When it comes to refit the island is not short of facilities. Gino Cutajar, president of the Super Yacht Industry Network Malta (SYINM) explains, “Two years has passed since the privatisation of the Manoel Island Yacht Yard and the Super Yacht Yard, which was taken over by Palumbo Group. During this time both yards have been revamping their facilities, as well as extensively marketing them, which should start having a positive effect. The other yards, Bezzina Yacht Yard and Cassar Ship Repair Yard are also eyeing the superyacht market with interest.” Although he conceded that, “Unfortunately last year superyachts visiting the island were less than the previous year. However this year we are more optimistic. The review of the charter tax makes Malta more attractive for superyachts starting their charters here.”Michela de Curtis from Palumbo Malta Superyachts has a more positive outlook, “The yard is busier and busier; we noticed that the enquires are increasing as well as the size of the yachts visiting our yard. In the last months we have had three very large yachts from 85m visiting our yards.” De Curtis believes this is down to the ongoing improvements to facilities and the fact that once experienced Malta is not forgotten: “Captains and crew are a bit reluctant about Malta, but once they are here they change their mind completely.” Palumbo is adding to its empire with the newly acquired ITM yard in Marseille which will further consolidate its prowess within the refit sector. Improving facilities Alongside Palumbo is the Manoel Island Yacht Yard, with a total area of 70,000m 2 , which is being updated in a major investment programme. Complementing them both is Bezzina Yacht Yard with a refit area of 30,000m 2  and a 140m  jetty. The well-established Melita Marine Group, founded in 1989, is another major player in the superyacht sector, offering a comprehensive range of services including refit management, duty free supplies and fuel bunkering.The yard has a specialised team of project managers who can deal with yachts of up to 140m and has facilities that include three docks capable of lifting yachts up to 100m and six berths up to 100m. The family run Cassar Ship Repair, with roots embedded in the repair of commercial ships, is also diversifying into the superyacht market. In terms of cruising Malta is well placed for charter, close to the Western Med and with Sicily and Tunisia on its doorstep ripe for exploration. Fiona Maureso, the vice president of MYBA and charter director at Northrop & Johnson France, gives Malta her endorsement for charter. From experience she said that the country’s capital, Valletta, was “ideally placed for starting a charter”. Gozo, too, is showing promise in terms of attracting more superyachts and the Maltese government has recently closed bids for a cruise liner terminal and a yacht marina. But undoubtedly another way to raise awareness of the island’s cruising potential would be to fly charter brokers out on reconnaissance missions to see first hand what is on offer. The biggest message the industry seems to have for Malta, and this is certainly one that is being heeded, is that the small island needs to reach out to decision makers and nurture its advocates and ambassadors. It needs to establish a cohesive identity in the form of a Maltese brand. Competing with the strong yards of the French and Italian riviera, Malta needs to identify what it can offer to surpass its Mediterranean neighbours and spread this message. An island with a traditionally reticent and modest character, the Maltese are now learning to fly their banner within the industry and we will watch the repercussions with interest.
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