The International Shipping Register of Madeira (MAR) was established in 1989 as part of the Madeira International Business Centre ("MIBC") "package" of taxation benefits. Vessels registered with MAR carry the Portuguese flag and are subject to the International Treaties and Conventions entered into by Portugal.
Over half a million vessels are now registered with MAR and it is ranked the fourth international shipping register in the EU. Four of the largest ship-owners in the world, APM-Maersk, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), CMA CGM Group and Cosco Shipping, have now registered ships with MAR, as recorded by the international analyst firm, Alphaliner.
Recent Developments of MAR
In 2017 a number of significant developments took place, increasing the attractiveness of registering a vessel in MAR:
- Vessels under the Portuguese flag are included in the Qualship 21 Index of the United States of America. This certificate recognises the exceptional standards of the Register.
- The Korean Register (KR), a member of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS), was granted authorisation by the Portugal Maritime Authority (DGRM) to deliver statutory services on behalf of the Portuguese flag. This authorisation enables the Korean Register to act as a Recognised Organisation (RO), conducting surveys and audits, and issuing certificates to Portuguese flagged ships, including those in Madeira, to ensure full compliance with SOLAS, MARPOL, ITC, ILL and MLC regulations.
- The Madeira Shipping Register was "White Listed" on both the Paris MOU and the Tokyo MOU.
Advantages of Registering a Vessel with MAR
The key advantages of ship registration in MAR are detailed below:
- Shipping companies licenced to operate within MAR benefit from a corporate income tax rate of 5% until 2027. They also enjoy automatic VAT registration and have access to the Portuguese double taxation treaty network.
- The Register is of a high standard, has EU credibility and full access to EU cabotage.
- It is not regarded by the International Transport Workers' Federation as a flag of convenience.
- There are no nationality requirements for ship owners of vessels registered in MAR and they are not required to have their head office in Madeira; it is sufficient to have local legal representation with adequate powers. Dixcart in Madeira can provide this service.
- The existence of a flexible mortgage system allows the mortgagor and the mortgagee, by written agreement, to choose the legal system of a particular country that will govern the terms of the mortgage.
- Registration fees are competitive and there are no annual tonnage taxes.
- Generally, the captain and 50% of the crew of the ship must be "European". This includes nationalities such as Polish, Russia and Ukrainian, as well as citizens of Portuguese-speaking countries, which allows for flexible manning.
- Crew wages are exempt from income tax and social security charges in Portugal.
- Temporary registration is allowed by law (bareboat charter: "In" and "Out").
- Eight International Classification Societies are recognised in Portugal. MAR can delegate some of its functions to these societies. This can be simpler and more convenient for ship owners.
Additional Tax Advantages for Shipping Companies in Madeira
In addition, to the reduced corporate tax rates, Madeira shipping companies also enjoy exemption from withholding taxes on the distribution of dividends, exemption from withholding taxes on interest, royalties and service fees paid to non-residents, and exemption from capital duty, notary and registration fees. If certain requirements are met, shipping companies may also be exempt from capital gains tax when subsidiaries are sold.
Shipping companies can benefit from the Double Taxation Treaties with Portugal and Investment Protection Treaties signed by Portugal.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.