MTCC to build docking terminal in Thilafushi

The state-owned Maldives Transport and Construction Company (MTCC) is planning to invest MVR52 million (US$3.3 million) to build a docking terminal on the industrial island of Thilafushi near Malé.

MTCC chairman Hussain Salim reportedly said at the company’s annual general meeting last night that the dock yard can be completed in three years.

The company could earn a profit of MVR100 million (US$6.4 million) in a short period due to high demand for the service, he added.

The company will also introduce steel construction this year, Salim said, which is cheaper and faster than concrete structures.

MTCC also plans to invest MVR700 million (US$45 million) during the next five years to improve the capability of the local construction industry. The investment includes buying a dredger for land reclamation projects, Salim said.

The company made a record profit of MVR81.64 million (US$5.2 million) in 2014.

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Opposition allege corruption in Thilafushi port deal

The opposition has alleged corruption in a new government deal with a Dubai-based marine terminal operator to establish a commercial port and free trade zone near Malé.

Opposition members have criticised the deal over an apparent lack of transparency, noting the government had signed an MoU with Dubai Ports (DP) World last month without an open bidding process.

DP World, among the world’s largest ports operators, is expected to invest up to US$300 million in a deep-water complex on the industrial island of Thilafushi, and create hundreds of jobs for Maldivians according to the government.

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb said the government will sign an agreement for a joint-venture company with DP World this month.

Former MP and MDP member Visam Ali said DP World was only interested in the Maldives to protect its multi-billion dollar port in India’s Cochin.

“Dubai World has already made a huge investment in the Maldives region. There are three main ports in this region, Colombo, Tutticorin and Cochin. Dubai World has made a US$2billion investment in the Cochin port, to handle a million containers at the same time,” she said at a rally in Kulhudhuffushi this weekend.

“Their only reason to invest in the Maldives is to protect that investment, because if there is a major port in the Maldives their investment in the Cochin port will fail. Maldives’ strategic location will make a port here more beneficial to traders. So Dubai World knows if there is a major port in the Maldives, their Cochin port will not be economically viable. So they are attempting to take control of the Maldives port. There is black money in this.”

Adeeb and DP World were unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

Meanwhile, London-based maritime analysts Drewry Equity have characterised DP World’s interest in the Maldives as an attempt to take on Colombo’s position in the Indian Ocean, as the Maldives is “more strategically ideal as a cross-road between Far East-Europe and Far East-Africa trade lanes than the Colombo port.”

However, a Maldives port may “cannibalise” transshipment volume at DP World’s main port at Jebel Ali, Drewry said, adding that the best strategy for the company would be to operate the Maldives port as a low margin facility, possibly in partnership with a shipping line.

The maritime research organisation also said Maldives as a transshipment hub “is a digression from DP World’s core strategy of handling higher gateway cargoes, which allows for higher margins.”

Ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives MP Ahmed Nihan last week said the port was a first step in transforming the country into Singapore.

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Government to invite bids for Thilafushi waste processing

The government says it will invite bids next month to separate waste on the “rubbish island” of Thilafushi in the latest attempt to solve the Maldives’ biggest environmental blight.

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, who heads the Economic Council, said he hoped waste separation services would be in place by the end of the year, while a second phase of the project will involve green energy generation from the waste.

“The dumping site will be converted to an environmentally friendly incineration site,” he said.

The changes are to be financed by a new US $6-per-tourist “green tax” introduced in this year’s budget, Adeeb said.

The plan is the latest in a series of attempts to take control of the waste problem at Thilafushi, where garbage from the capital, Male’, and from many resorts is sent.

More than 200,000 tons of industrial and domestic waste were sent to Thilafushi in 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to government figures.

While some of the waste is sorted and sent to India, most is simply used as landfill or burned. Campaign groups have highlighted the risks to workers from toxic fumes and the contamination of surrounding lagoons by floating garbage.

The former Maldivian Democratic Party-led government had signed a contract with India-based Tatva Global Renewable Energy in 2011 to provide waste management services in and around Male, including establishing a system to generate power from recycling waste.

However, the current government of President Abdulla Yameen cancelled that deal late last year, having previously sought to renegotiate it on “more mutually beneficial” terms.

Environmentalists have questioned whether the political will exists to transform Thilafushi.

“So far, they’ve been trying for 20 years and it’s only getting worse,” said Maeed Zahir, founder of the environmental NGO Ecocare.

The government has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Emirati company Dubai Ports World for development of a new commercial port at Thilafushi, to be built within two years.

 

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Government to sign MoU with Dubai Ports World to develop port at Thilafushi

The government is planning to relocate the central commercial port from Malé to Thilafushi and sign a joint venture agreement with Dubai Ports (DP) World to develop the port as a free zone, the cabinet’s economic council has revealed.

Speaking at a press conference at the President’s Office yesterday, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb said “advance discussions” have taken place with DP World about a joint venture with the government.

“In my view, such progress shows the confidence in the Maldives,” the co-chair of the economic council said.

Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed and Youth Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal would depart for Dubai on Wednesday night to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), Adeeb said.

DP World is one of the largest marine terminal operators in the world and currently manages more than 60 terminals across six continents.

The envisioned free zone at Thilafushi port would include facilities for bulk breaking and transhipment cargo handling, Adeeb said.

DP World has expressed interest in investing in the port project, he continued, and negotiations were ongoing concerning details of the joint venture between the Emirati company and the Maldives Ports Limited (MPL).

DP World would be required to keep existing local staff at MPL, bring Maldivians to the top management and provide training, Adeeb said.

The project would be divided into three phases with an estimated investment of between US$250 and US$300 million, he said.

Adeeb explained that DP World would be offered incentives under the government’s flagship Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act with “a free trade zone area” and relaxed regulations.

A larger port was essential logistically if 50 new resorts were to be developed, he continued, noting difficulties at present in importing and clearing resort supplies through the central port.

The government would also hire a port expert for the negotiations to ensure the “best deal” for the Maldives, he added.

Economic Development Minister Saeed said the Maldives was ripe for “an ocean economy” and the current administration has undertaken unprecedented efforts to diversify the economy with a focus of maritime businesses.

Congestion was a serious problem at the Malé commercial port, which has space for about 60,000 containers, Saeed explained.

The SEZ investment board was in the process of finalising plans for establishing “a free zone or dedicated free trade zone” at the port, Saeed revealed.

During last year’s budget debate, opposition MPs expressed skepticism of the government’s forecast of US$100 million expected as acquisition fees for SEZs by August 2015.

The opposition has also criticised the lack of significant foreign investments despite assurances by President Abdulla Yameen’s administration with the passage of the SEZ law last year.

Saeed meanwhile noted that the seaport project was announced in April last year at an investor forum in Singapore.

“So in a very short period of time, we have steadied the economy, stabilised the currency, increased the gross reserve, increased investor confidence, and while solving issues in the domestic environment or arena, we are seeing today that what this government is doing is real governance,” he said.

“So citizens should rejoice. And I believe that the progress we are making is unprecedented in recent history.”

Adeeb also said projects to construct a new terminal and second runway at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) as well as a bridge connecting the capital to Hulhumalé would begin before the end of the year.


Related to this story

Economic growth relatively strong, but public debt ratio high: IMF

Foreign investments worth MVR9.8 billion expected in five years, says President Yameen

Tourism Minister Adeeb appointed chairman of SEZ investment board

PPM celebrates SEZ bill with fireworks

“Yonder lies the greener pastures”: President Yameen inaugurates investor forum in Singapore

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MVR22 million fine issued for ship stranded on Thilafushi reef

A cargo ship which ran aground on the reef near Thilafushi earlier this month has been fined MVR22 million (US$1.4 million), the Transport Authority has told local media.

The MV Mutha Pioneer - registered in Dominica – became lodged on the reef to the north west of the industrial island on December 10, with an analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency revealing it had caused damage to 588 square meters of reef.

After spending around ten hours stranded on the reef, the Maldives National Defence Force was able to free the 1,900 tonne cargo vessel.

At the start of the year (January 7) a 27,000-tonne vessel called Auguste Schulte became stranded in shallow water while attempting to make a turn near the coast of the Raalhugandu area in Malé.

After assessing the damage caused by this incident, the government claimed damages of MVR 62.7 million (US$4 million).

Source: Haveeru

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Former Thilafushi Corporation head given 3 years for corruption

Former Thilafushi Corporation Managing Director (MD) Ibrahim Riyaz was sentenced to jail for 3 years by the Criminal Court today after being found guilty of using his influence to gain unlawful advantages in the Thilafushi land reclamation project.

The Criminal Court sentence read that Riyaz had denied corruption charges, claiming that the decision to award the project to Heavy Load Maldives was made by the company board of directors.

Heavy Load is owned by the family of Maldives Democratic Party MP and Deputy Speaker of the Majlis ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik.

The troubled reclamation deal – awarded in 2010 as part of the Thilafalhu Industrial Zone project – faced repeated delays due to both technical and financial reasons.

The Criminal Court today countered Riyaz’s defense  saying that he was not able to prove that the decision was made by the board of directors, and accused the former MD of making the decision himself in order to gain personally.

The decision to award the contract to Heavy Load Maldives was made against the rules and regulations of the company as well, read the sentence.

The mega-construction company was paid a mobilisation fee of MVR 38.6 million (US$ 2.52 million) by the Thilafushi Corporation in the project with the whole project reported to be worth US$ 21 million.

Anti-Corruption Committee (ACC) officials ordered the project halted in February 2011, citing the potential for corruption with the deal – though Moosa himself at the time alleged the decision to have been politically motivated.

The Thilafushi Corporation later sued the ACC for the decision to stop the work.

The state-owned corporation reportedly told a Majlis subcommittee last year that it had lost MVR650 million (US$42 million) as a result of the failure of Heavy Load to reclaim the required 152 hectares within the 6 month period agreed.

Criminal Court also charged two other executives of Thilafushi Corporation for participating in the corruption but were unable to prove their involvement.

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Bangladeshi dies in accident at MTCC Thilafushi site

A Bangladeshi national died in an accident at the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company’s (MTCC) site in the industrial island of Thilafushi on Saturday (August 23).

According to local media, an airbag used in docking burst and flung the Bangladeshi man – an MTCC employee – following impact.

The Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) revealed that despite no sign of visible injuries, he had died of internal injuries and bleeding.

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Indian expatriate found dead in Thilafushi

An Indian expatriate was found dead in his living quarters in the industrial island of Thilafushi last night (May 26), local media reports.

The apparent suicide was reported to police around 9:40 pm after the Indian national was discovered by his co-workers. The man appears to have hung himself, local media said.

According to the co-workers, the man had been missing for two days.

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Are efforts to keep Malé City clean going to waste?

“As we increase our efforts to clean Malé, the amount of garbage dumped on to the street is also increasing,” said Mayor Mohamed Shihab.

The purpose of cleaning Malé’s streets and providing public dustbins – for which 260 people are now employed – is not to collect household waste, but to clean up litter, the Mayor tells Minivan News.

It is important to cultivate a habit of keeping the streets clean and using trash bins in the community, he said, suggesting that the implementation of laws was also required to address the issue.

However, keeping the streets free from litter is just the tip of the rubbish pile explains Shihab, revealing the difficulties the council continues to face in finding a sustainable way to manage the capital’s waste.

Regulation

The waste management regulation which came into partial force on February 5 imposes an MVR100 (US$6.5) fine for littering and a fine between MVR10,000 (US$ 648.5) and MVR100,000 (US$6,485) if any authority in charge of public spaces fails to provide dustbins.

The regulations also require boat owners to place dustbins on sea vessels, imposing a maximum fine of MVR100 million (US$6.5 million) on boats that dump waste into the ocean.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Ahmed Murthaza – assistant director at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – said that no one had yet been fined under the regulation.

The main focus of the EPA up to now has been to create awareness and to advise offenders to correct their actions, although he warned that the agency would start imposing the fines beginning on World Environment Day (5 June 2014).

The EPA will be working with councils and the Environmental Police Unit in implementing the regulation – all of whom are authorised to issues fines.

Waste management

Mayor Shihab has suggested a long term solution for the issue would be the door to door collection of household waste.

“This is is how it is done everywhere around the world. And in all countries, they charge a fee for the service.”

“So in the future the council will be collecting and disposing the garbage. This will be discussed. Even now each house is spending money, 100 or 200 rufiyaa, monthly for this purpose.”

Most households in Malé currently employ garbage collectors – usually migrant workers – who carry the garbage on their bicycles or private pick-up trucks. This garbage is then carried dumped on a barge in the island’s south-west harbor, which then transports it to the landfill ‘garbage island’ of Thilafushi.

This arrangement, however, was intended to be a temporary one initiated in 2013 after garbage piled up in Malé’s two primary waste yards following damage to the collection vehicles.

While the industrial junk yard is once again in use today, the household waste yard remains abandoned as its foundation structure is damaged to a point that it would be harmful for the environment to utilise the place without funding from a reluctant Finance Ministry, explained Shihab

According to the council, the current arrangement will remain in place during the Islamic month of Ramadan – beginning on June 30 – when the household waste produced can be expected to double.

According to shipping industry sources, an estimated 15- 20 percent increase in imported goods is expected during Ramadan.

Environment Ministry data from 2007 put daily food waste produced in Malé at approximately 25 tonnes, while 2012 statistics indicated that 89,797 tonnes of domestic waste was dumped on Thilafushi annually.

“Dumping waste on to the barge was a temporary measure, but this operation will continue in Ramadan with more barges. Instead of keeping a huge pile of waste in Malé, we will work to transport it as soon as possible,”  explained councillor Shamau Shareef.

Tatva solution

For the council, the immediate hope for a solution to Malé waste management is in India-based Tatva Global Renewable Energy.

The Tatva agreement has faced delays after the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed renegotiated the agreement signed by his predecessor Mohamed Nasheed in 2011.

The new agreement, which will not include collection of garbage from household in its first phase, now requires the final approval of the Finance Ministry to begin operations.

Under the Tatva agreement, the council’s equipment – including trucks and excavators – has to be to handed over to Tatva in working condition. However, as the council’s equipment has been damaged for over a year, funds are needed for repairs before the handover.

“Our concern is that the government is spending MVR7 million [monthly] to rent this equipment, such as excavators, landing craft, and the barge. This money belongs to the people,” said Shihab.

Suggesting that the council could get the same results for just MVR2-3million, he said that the ministry had repeatedly ignored requests for repair funds.

The existing arrangement must be replaced with permanent and sustainable solution, said the mayor, noting that the smell alone from the garbage barge was becoming unpleasant for people living in the vicinity.

Minivan News was unable to obtain a comment from Ministry of Finance at the time of press.

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