Recent amendments to the Civil Code concerning contracts of lease have bolstered the rights of lessors of aircraft such that they are now not materially different to those granted to the holders of security interests in terms of the Cape Town Convention. Aircraft leases are now akin to security interests and grant important rights and remedies to lessors and financiers. The changes better reflect the commercial realities underlying the aircraft lease relationship and should continue to improve Malta's legislative framework in this area.
While the rights of third-party owners of installed engines were recognised prior to amendments introduced in 2016, the protection of those rights was subject to serious procedural limitations which came to light in several related cases. Following the decisions in these cases, the law was amended so that it is now provided that the court seized with the acts of a warrant of arrest of an aircraft will also be competent to hear an application by the owner of an installed engine which does not belong to the aircraft owner.
Over the last few years, the government has sought to promote the development of the aviation sector through the introduction of legal and administrative infrastructure modelled on the common law system and international conventions, including the adoption of the Cape Town Convention, the creation of a dynamic aircraft and mortgage register and the introduction of comprehensive laws on trust.
In response to the recommendations of a legal group commissioned by the Ministry for Infrastructure, Transport and Communications, the Maltese government is proposing to ratify and implement the Cape Town Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Aircraft Protocol thereto. Ratification of the convention will go some way towards making Malta a more attractive jurisdiction for aircraft registration.
Emulating the success of its Shipping Register, Malta is committed to establishing itself as a leading jurisdiction for aircraft registration. Plans were recently announced to reform the local regulatory framework and develop the registration of aircraft into a niche sector, with the potential of spearheading the creation of a cluster of aviation services.
Industrial Tribunal cases tend to be sensitive in nature as they essentially deal with a person's livelihood; however, when the Industrial Tribunal is faced with matters which have also been referred to the courts of criminal jurisdiction, such cases are even more complex. In particular, there are questions around how an employer should regulate itself regarding an employee's employment when it is confronted with a pending decision by the criminal court.
The Court of Appeal recently upheld an Industrial Tribunal decision and confirmed that a company operating in the iGaming industry had been entitled to dismiss an employee who had, on one occasion, forgotten to upload games to the company's platform. Nonetheless, this is a contentious judgment which, at face value, seems to diminish the burden that an employer must prove continuous or repetitive misconduct or underperformance substantiated by valid warnings.
The Industrial Tribunal recently examined the concept of reasonable accommodation and what employers should do to accommodate their employees appropriately. In this case, the employee claimed that he had been discriminated against due to his heart condition and unfairly dismissed. The tribunal ruled in the employee's favour and awarded him €20,000 for unfair dismissal and another €10,000 for discrimination.
Four new legal notices were recently published in the Government Gazette. However, these were short lived, as just a few days later, ministry representatives reportedly declared that the legal notices would be suspended. While it is uncertain whether the Annual Leave National Standard Order will be enacted, it is worthwhile to analyse the proposed changes, as these would alter current employment law should they come into force.
Four new legal notices affecting employment laws were recently published in the Government Gazette. Whether the notices must be considered as law and enforceable before the Maltese tribunals and courts is now the subject of debate. However, it is clear that the government intends to introduce some piecemeal changes that will affect employers significantly, including new rules on payslips that all employers – irrespective of size – must issue and new limitations on holiday leave arrangements.
In light of the continuous developments and ambiguity surrounding the Brexit negotiations, as well as the uncertainty facing British citizens who currently reside in EU member states, the Maltese government recently propagated regulations concerning the residence and employment rights which will be upheld for British citizens who already reside and work in Malta. The regulations are set to come into force in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
If an event of default occurs, a power of attorney executed by the mortgagor will allow the mortgagee to apply for the immediate closure of the vessel's Maltese register on the mortgagor's behalf and to pay all fees, make all declarations and receive all certificates, including the deletion certificate. While not essential for enforcement, registration of the irrevocable power of attorney is nevertheless an option for mortgagees and provides the added benefit of allowing for swifter enforcement in cases of default.
Asset-backed securitisation in the shipping sphere has recently come to prominence in light of traditional financiers' reluctance to finance shipping activities. The amalgamation of Malta's securitisation framework and merchant shipping laws makes up for a sui generis alternative corporate vehicle to facilitate such transactions and provide the stability and security for which investors yearn.
The practice of inserting a reference to a physical supplier's applicable terms and conditions in a bunker delivery note is rife within the local bunkering community. Historically, case law on the subject has been sparse. However, a recent court judgment supports the view that bunker suppliers cannot pursue a vessel or its owners for unpaid bunkers unless that claim is privileged or the order came directly from the vessel, its owner or its agent.
A mortgage over a Malta-flagged vessel may be drawn up to secure the payment of a principal sum and interest, an account current or the performance of any other obligation – including a future obligation – due to a creditor by the debtor. The parties to an underlying security document may enter into negotiations resulting in changes to the terms set out in the security document. The question that therefore arises is whether a mortgage amendment should be registered to reflect the new terms.
The registration of a mortgage over a Malta-flagged vessel in favour of an individual, corporate lender or security trustee (the mortgagee) requires the filing of a statutory mortgage instrument (the deed) at the Maltese Ship Registry. However, what happens if the original mortgage instrument is misplaced? Maltese law affords two remedies in such instances; the chosen remedy will depend on the remaining duration of the registered security.
The long-awaited General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) finally entered into force on 25 May 2018. The GDPR allows member states some flexibility to regulate certain areas of the law within specific parameters. Accordingly, Malta recently enacted a new Data Protection Act, together with a set of subsidiary laws which regulate sector-specific data protection issues. All organisations must be aware of this comprehensive regulatory regime and not simply rely on the GDPR.