Tonnage tax

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A tonnage tax is a taxation mechanism that can be applied to shipping companies. The tax is determined by the Net tonnage of the entire fleet of vessels under operation or use by a company. It is on the basis of this variable that taxation is applied.

Given that the tax perceived is independent from the volume of material transported and from the operating profit of a shipping company, it is less complex to manage for tax authorities and shipping companies. This method of taxation is based on an objectively measurable variable - net tonnage - by independent certifying bodies that determine the transport capacity of the vessels. Under current international practice, tonnage tax regimes are used to incentivise the modernisation and improved environmental performance of merchant fleets.

The first country to introduce a tonnage tax was Greece back in 1957. [1] Today, tonnage tax rules are applied in many countries, including 18 EU countries. The latest tonnage tax regime to have received the approval of the European Commission is the Maltese tonnage tax scheme on 19 December 2017. [2]


  1. Weintrit, Adam and Tomasz Neumann (Editors), 2013. Marine Navigation and Safety of Sea Transportation: STCW, Maritime Education and Training (MET), Human Resources and Crew Manning, Maritime Policy, Logistics and Economic Matters, CRC Press, ISBN   9781138001046.
  2. cf. European Commission press release approving Maltese tonnage tax scheme

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