Marine Scientific Research

Marine Scientific Research

The right of all states to conduct marine scientific research emanates from the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea subject to the rights and duties of other states.

The Continental Shelf Department is responsible for licensing and regulating marine scientific research on Malta’s continental shelf (including the internal waters and territorial waters).

In accordance with Regulation 6 of the Continental Shelf Regulations (S.L. 535.02) research entities interested in carrying out marine scientific research are to apply to the Director General, Continental Shelf Department on by submitting an application for consent which can be downloaded from this website. Each application shall be accompanied by a non-refundable administrative payment of three hundred euro (€300). Please contact the Director General, Continental Shelf Department on​ for the necessary payment details.

The licence will contain conditions which include but are not limited to the provision of a copy of the data (on a non-returnable hard disk) and a final report. The Department reserves the right to withhold its consent to the granting of a licence or to issue an order requiring the suspension or cessation of marine research activities in terms of the provisions of the said Continental Shelf Regulations.

It is the responsibility of the applicant to seek the necessary authorisations from other entities in Malta.

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Read more about Marine Scientific Research

The scientific understanding of the marine waters is fundamental to effectively manage human activities that affect the marine environment in a sustainable way. This is also essential to forecast, mitigate and guide the adaptation of societies to cope with the many ways the ocean affects human lives and infrastructures at different spatial and temporal scales. In order to manage human activities so as to achieve sustainable use of the marine environment and its resources, we need to understand the geology and geophysics of ocean basins, the physical processes at work as the waters of the world's different oceans and seas move around, the occurrence and distribution of flora and fauna, the biological processes that regulate and sustain the productivity of ecosystems and the way in which all these elements interact. Marine scientific research is the main way in which we can move towards this goal. [Chapter 30; United Nations 2016]. 

Example of multi beam bathymetric data

Example of side scan sonar (top) and 
sub-bottom profiler (bottom) data

Marine scientific research is carried out by research entities - usually academic institutions - to investigate the seabed, sub-soil and the water column. Seabed investigation typically consists in the identification and characterisation of seabed sediments, seabed features and benthic habitats. This is carried out with echosounders (single beam and multi beam), sonars devices (such as side scan sonar) and remotely operated underwater vehicles. For investigating the uppermost layers of sediments or rock under the seafloor, a sub-bottom profiler is often used. Sometimes sediment sampling and coring is carried out to gather direct information on the seafloor geology.

Gravity coring operations

NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research - Pelagia Research Vessel

The acquisition of hydrographic and oceanographic data (such as water depth, currents, temperature and conductivity) is carried out by various scientific equipment such as echosounders, current profilers and conductivity, temperature and depth (CDT) probes.


Bernal, P., Simcock A. (2016), The First Global Integrated Marine Assessment, World Ocean Assessment 1, Chapter 30, Marine Scientific Research, United Nations.