By Merchant Shipping Notice no. 171, the Merchant Shipping Directorate officially adopted the much-anticipated Passenger Yacht Code (PYC). The Code has been praised for tapping into a market previously overlooked.

The implementation of the PYC means that commercial yachts wishing to carry more than 12 passengers in international waters can do so by qualifying thereunder. Previously, said yachts would require to be certified as a fully-fledged passenger vessel – a significantly onerous certification considered by stakeholders as disproportionately expensive and complex.

As a result, Maltese flagged commercial yachts can now engage in international transportation of up to 36 passengers, with no more than 200 persons in total onboard (i.e. including crew, attendants and other staff). With the advent of an ever-growing superyacht industry, the PYC couldn’t come at a better time.

The Code considers the risks and liabilities of international sea passage and thus sets out equivalency requirements such as those to the provisions of Article 8 of the International Convention on Load Lines and Regulation I-5 of the International Convention on Safety of Life at Sea.

For instance, the PYC requires that Passenger yachts are surveyed, certified and audited, and issued with Class and Statutory certificates applicable to Passenger Vessels, and this by recognised organisations delegated by the Merchant Shipping Directorate. Auditors, plan-approval Staff and Surveyors should be experienced and qualified in Passenger Ships. Passenger Yachts are also required to meet certain SOLAS and Maritime Labour Convention Rules, and minimum standards are set out in the Code to account for key Flag and Port state Regulations and International Conventions and Protocols including MARPOL, COLREG, and STCW.

Ultimately, the protection of staff, passengers and the environment must take priority. The Maltese Flag has built its international reputation by promoting the safeguarding of seafarers’ rights, the environment and the maritime industry itself.  Any incentive to attract business to the Flag must always be managed with adequate regulation and tools of enforcement.

The Merchant Shipping Directorate has reached such a balance in the PYC.

The Passenger Yacht Code entered into force on the 25th of May 2021 and can be accessed here.

This article is not intended to constitute legal advice and neither does it exhaust all relevant aspects of the topic.


The research work disclosed in this publication is partially funded by the Endeavour Scholarship Scheme (Malta). Project part-financed by the European Social Fund; Operational Programme II – European Structural and Investment Funds 2014-2020 “Investing in human capital to create more opportunities and promote the well-being of society”.


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Jennifer Shaw

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