Amendments to Malta’s Aircraft Registration Act come into force

On the 6th of July, 2021, the Aircraft Registration (Amendment) Act (Act 37 of 2021 of the laws of Malta) was published amending primarily the Aircraft Registration Act (Cap 503 of the laws of Malta). These amendments have been commissioned by the Civil Aviation Directorate within Transport Malta following feedback received from various industry players in order to (i) facilitate further the registration of aircraft, including creating a greater pool of available registration marks; (ii) introduce specific regulations for the registration, de-registration and enforcement of IDERAs; and (iii) introduce a new warrant of ejectment or expulsion.

The Aviation team of Ganado Advocates assisted in drafting the amendments to the Aircraft Registration Act.


The Aircraft Registration Act, 2010 (Chapter 503 of the laws of Malta) (the “ARA” or the “Act”) was enacted in 2010 in order to regulate, amongst other things the registration of aircraft and aircraft mortgages and to implement the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and Protocol thereto on Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment (the “Cape Town Convention” or the “CTC”).

Although the ARA has proven to be successful, amendments to the ARA have been made by Act 37 of 2021 in order to fine-tune this legislation in view of feedback received from the various industry players. These amendments are summarised below:

A. Registration Marks

The ARA is being amended in order to have a greater pool of available registration marks. The registration marks were initially limited to a group of three capital letters in Roman characters immediately following the nationality mark for Malta, 9H and which is now being extended to a group of three to five characters, which characters can be a combination of capital letters in roman character and/or Arabic numbers.

B. Flexibility in the Registration of Aircraft

An element of flexibility has been introduced in the ARA in relation to the registration of aircraft. The details to be included on the fire-proof plates have been limited to the Malta registration marks, thus making it easier to prepare these in advance and also facilitating the sale and purchase of aircraft.

Furthermore, the Registrar General has been provided with discretionary powers to proceed with the registration of an aircraft even though not all of the documents required for registration have been provided. Nonetheless, it is important to note that this discretionary power is not unlimited and certain documents must be provided at all times.

C. Unmanned Aircraft

The definition of unmanned aircraft has been included in the Aircraft Registration Act in order to allow for the registration of such aircraft ‘operating or designed to operate autonomously or to be piloted remotely without a pilot on board’. The design of such unmanned aircraft is subject to certification under the Basic EASA Regulation.

D. IDERA Regulations

The introduction of Irrevocable De-registration and Export Request Authorisations (the “IDERA”) in the ARA in 2010 was ground-breaking. The need was felt to further regulate the registration, de-registration and enforcement of the IDERA through specific regulations and also introduce timelines within which the Director of Civil Aviation would need to register and enforce the IDERA, thus providing more certainty to IDERA holders.  Furthermore, although the concept of certified designee was already mentioned in the ARA, clear procedures have been introduced whereby IDERA holders could nominate certified designees with the latter being authorised to enforce the IDERA and de-register and export the aircraft.

E. Enforcement of IDERA

Although the ARA had already catered for the IDERA enforcement procedure, the relevant provisions have been amended in order to outline the procedure with more clarity and insert deadlines. Prior to the amendments, the ARA did not specify how many IDERAs could be registered and by whom. Through these amendments, it is being clarified, that only one IDERA can be registered and it has to be issued by the registrant, which is usually the operator of the aircraft. Furthermore, the law states that upon the enforcement of an IDERA, the IDERA shall be acted upon by the Civil Aviation Directorate i.e. that the aircraft is de-registered, at all times without the Civil Aviation Directorate having to enter into the merits of the case, naturally, unless there is an international interest which ranks higher in priority to the registered IDERA.

F. Warrant of Ejectment or Expulsion

A new warrant has been introduced whereby an aircraft or vessel owner or any mortgagee can request the issuance of a warrant of ejectment or expulsion whereby the operator or lessee or other occupants of the vessel or aircraft leave the aircraft or vessel within a specific time.  This complements the already existing warrant of arrest.