Addu International Airport Company (AIA) has contracted a Dubai-based group to undertake the dredging and reclamation component of developing Gan International Airport, Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodig said today.
He confirmed a company called Gulf Cobla had been awarded the $11.7 million (MVR 180 million) project, which will include land reclamation to build seaplane terminals. The contract will also include work on constructing revetments on the reclaimed land. Revetments are barricades used to prevent aircraft from overshooting a runway.
“I had a word with [AIA and the State Trading Organisation (STO)] Managing Director Shahid Ali this morning and he said the project is going well. However, some people have misinterpreted the situation because a contract was given to Lagan and another was awarded to Gulf Cobla,” Mayor Sodig told Minivan News.
AIA is itself a joint venture formed by the Gan Airport Company Ltd (GACL), Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL) and the STO.
Sodig explained that a UK company called Lagan had won the main contract to develop the airport, but added that it was AIA who had outsourced additional dredging work that was required to be completed before the main runway expansion could begin.
AIA and STO Managing Director Shahid Ali confirmed to Minivan News today that: “AIA contracted directly with Gulf Cobla to conduct the dredging and land reclamation components.”
Shahid previously told local media that Gulf Cobla’s segment of the project would be completed within eight months and that it will facilitate seaplane services being provided from Gan International Airport.
“Dredging will take about eight months. We predict that the physical work can begin within one month of signing this contract,” he said.
Shahid said he expected the overall airport development project to be complete by September 2014.
AIA is also conducting negotiations with Sri Lankan Airlines, Bangkok Airways, and Air Asia to increase the number of international flights from the airport,” he added.
Gulf Cobla’s Managing Director Joost Post has also made assurances to media that the project would be completed within eight months, noting that the company had previously conducted four projects in the Maldives.
“Southern gateway to the world”
Mayor Sodig today said that the airport development would provide a huge boost to transport links in the country.
“The airport will start seaplane operations to resorts in the Southern Atolls. Once the Gan Airport is developed, it will be the southern gateway to other parts of the world,” Sodig declared.
Gan Airport’s main runway needs a one kilometre extension toward the northwest and it will also be resurfaced with asphalt, Sodig explained.
“The seaplane base will be developed on the western side of the island,” he added.
“The shallow lagoon across from the western beach will be dredged and the sand will then be used to develop the seaplane strip and reclaim land for the main runway. The area of the former Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Commander’s residence will be used to develop the seaplane terminal.”
Airport development controversy
Thirty percent of the AIA was sold in November 2012 to tourism pioneer ‘Champa’ Hussain Afeef’s Kasa Holdings to raise finances to develop the Gan airport in Addu City.
Goverment-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader MP Gasim Ibrahim previously denied in parliament that he had spoken against the sale of shares of AIA with the intention of buying shares himself. He claimed he had done so “in the best interests of Addu and the country.”
JP MP Alhan Fahmy added that he also wished to see the Addu airport developed, but was concerned with how the sale of shares had been carried out. Fahmy said that 30 percent of shares being sold off for MVR 60 million (US$3.89 million) was “nothing but daylight robbery”.
Meanwhile, a number of MPs from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) stated at the time that the party supported the concept of privatisation, adding that the development of the Addu airport was originally an MDP initiated plan. However, the opposition MPs also expressed concern over how the bidding process had been carried out.
During a November 2012 press briefing, STO Shahid Ali stated that contrary to general speculation, the airport had not been “sold”, but rather shares from the company AIA that had been sold to KASA Holdings.
He also refuted allegations of corruption, saying that KASA Holdings had been given higher priority since it was a local company and that all proceedings had gone through the bidding process in a matter which was completely free of any corruption.
Addu City Council previously released a statement welcoming the signing of the contract which they said would lead to the development of the Addu airport.
The statement further noted “the importance of leaving politics aside and for the good of citizens in letting the venture bring positive changes to Addu’s economy.”
The MDP also released a statement in November urging “not to let political feuds, political needs and power play interfere in important work directly related to the development of Addu City citizens, and generally all Maldivian citizens.”
The statement also condemned Gasim’s threats to sack Shahid Ali, stating “This party calls on political leaders to refrain from making unlawful threats through the greed for power and political wants.”