Contracts were signed today to establish transport networks in the Upper North and Upper South Provinces with high speed ferries.
At a ceremony at Dharubaaruge, two contracts for 50 years each were signed with Trinus-CAE Holdings Pvt Ltd, a joint venture between a Maldivian company and a South African company.
Speaking at the ceremony, Economic Development Minister Mohamed Rasheed said a transport network was essential for national development.
In the past, he said, economic development was concentrated around the capital Male’ and nearby atolls.
“Our tourism industry especially expanded in the region of the capital island,” he said. “The reason was that transport facilities had not been introduced to our country.”
The absence of a nationwide transport network hampered the development of the domestic economy, he said.
Rasheed said the establishment of regional transport networks would facilitate the mobility of labour and transport of goods necessary for businesses to prosper.
The Upper North includes Haa Alif, Haa Dhaal and Shaviyani atolls, while the Upper South Province includes Gaaf Alif and Gaaf Dhaal atolls.
“The difference between this agreement and other transport agreements that we’ve signed is that this is for a joint venture company,” he said, adding he hoped the South African company would be able to build ferries suited for Maldivian seas as soon as possible.
Maizan Ahmed Manik, state minister for transport, told Minivan News the fees for the service will be between Rf10 and Rf50 “up and down” and the ministry will provide terminals.
“They will be given 50-bed tourist facilities from each province,” he said.
The entire project will cost US$400 million over 50 years.
Ferry services have begun in the Mid-South Province, while they are scheduled to begin in the South Province on 24 November and South Central Province the following day.
Agreements are expected to be signed for the remaining provinces on 30 December.
From 11 September to 11 November, 18,700 people have used the ferry service offered by Dhoni Services in the Mid-South Province, which include Thaa and Laamu atolls.
Speaking at the ceremony, Ismail Samih Ahmed, managing director of Trinus, said engines and ferries designed by the company’s partner Cape Advanced Engineering (CAE) were used across the world.
Samih said the company did not intend to provide the ferry service with dhonis. “We have designed special high speed ferries to provide transport services in these two provinces.”
He added the rough seas and harbours of the provinces were taken into account in designing the vessels.
“We have also considered the environment in designing the ferry,” he said, adding it was designed to use biodiesel in the future.
The ferries are being built in South Africa now and should be introduced to the country next year, he said.
But, he added, temporary services with dhonis will be introduced in the meanwhile.
Mohamed Hunaif, state minister for the Upper North Province, said he constantly received calls from people awaiting the introduction of the services.
Since the islands in the province were far apart and travel was expensive, he added, people would rejoice at the signing of the contracts today.
In his remarks, Umar Jamal, state minister for the Upper South Province, said the absence of affordable public transport was one of the “five pillars of slavery” that had shackled development.
“Today we’re destroying one of those pillars,” he said.