Procedures for an arrest of vessel in Malta have been recently upgraded to enable, for the first time in Maltese legislative history, privately-engaged bailiffs to formally serve a warrant of arrest on ships that are in Maltese territorial seas. Act XXXI is the law that brought these changes into force effective as on the 18th of December 2019. The new law changes the traditional rule that required that service of warrants of arrest must necessarily be done by a Court Official, typically the Court Marshall. The new law introduces flexibility into the procedure for service of an arrest in that it enables the creditor to engage a private bailiff (identified 'a priori' to the Court) to physically serve upon and notify the warrant of arrest to the ship's Master and proceed to 'seize' the ship's papers for them to be lodged in Court. Under the newly promulgated procedure, the privately engaged bailiff will work hand-in-hand with Court officials thus ensuring that all steps remain subject to Court scrutiny.

The new procedure is specifically intended to facilitate the arrest of ships in difficult weather conditions, particularly where ships are miles away from Maltese shores, on anchorage, and sea conditions are bad. Now, more appropriately, rather than having Court personnel shipped out to vessels to enable notification of an arrest warrant, lawyers acting for creditors can tap the private sector to engage individuals that are apt to go out at sea in such weather conditions in place of the Court Marshall.

Click here to view Act XXXI.

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