Harbour construction on-going in 48 islands, says housing minister

Harbour construction is on-going in 48 islands while work is expected to begin in a further 10 islands during the year, Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muiz informed parliament yesterday.

Appearing for minister’s question time, Muiz said projects for six islands have been sent to the tender board last week.

“Our hope is to solve the problem in the next year or so for all islands facing embarking and disembarking difficulties. God willing, we will achieve this,” he said.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mariya Ahmed Didi had asked Muiz how many harbours have been constructed since the current administration took office in November.

The former MDP chairperson said 58 harbours were constructed during the three years of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration.

Kuribee and Nellaidhoo harbours

Muiz was summoned to respond to a question tabled by MDP MP for Vaikaradhoo, Mohamed Nazim, concerning harbour construction on two islands in his constituency.

Nazim noted that President Abdulla Yameen had pledged to expand the Kuribee harbour and that work had stalled on the Nellaidhoo harbour.

Muiz explained that construction began in Kuribee in 2011 for a 300-feet long and 150-feet wide harbour while the harbour in Nellaidhoo was to be 400-feet long and 150-feet wide.

Both projects were awarded to the Works Corporation Ltd (WCL) under contractor finance rules with the government-owned corporation providing equipment and material, he said, which then subcontracted Heavy Force Pvt Ltd for MVR21.5million (US$1.3 million).

However, construction stalled over difficulties faced by WCL in providing reinforcement boulders and the subcontractor stopped work on July 2012 after dredging and quay wall construction.

Of the 34 projects awarded to WCL in 2010 and 2011, an audit found that the government canceled 24 after the corporation failed to commence work. WCL had completed only one infrastructure project.

In late 2012, former President Dr Mohamed Waheed dissolved WCL and formed an office called public works under the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure.

The public works division subcontracted Heavy Force to carry out the remaining work, Muiz continued, and agreed to provide equipment and material through the State Trading Organisation (STO).

“However, STO also faced difficulties providing reinforcement boulders and the work stalled for about 14 months with Heavy Force unable to continue,” he said.

Project changes

The present administration subsequently changed the project to a normal material and labour contract – “as is done in other islands” – and subcontracted Heavy Force for a cost of MVR36.3 million (US$2.3 million) in February this year, he revealed.

Muiz stressed that the decision was made based on the “counsel and advice” from elders and councillors from both islands.

As Kuribee islanders had requested widening the harbour to 200-feet and President Yameen had pledged to do so during a campaign trip, Muiz said the old quay wall had to be rebuilt with an additional 50-feet dug into the island.

Muiz said further “variations” would be undesirable as the project has been costly.

Public finance regulations stipulate a 10 percent limit for variations to projects, he explained, adding that the tender board only allowed exceptions on rare occasions.

On the stalled project in Nellaidhoo, Muiz said the both the contractor and supervising staff from the ministry had said that construction was proving difficult due to strong ocean currents.

The ministry and the contractor decided to build the outer seawall first, Muiz revealed, which is expected to begin in a month.

“Our target is to finish the harbours on both islands during this year,” he said.

In a follow-up question, however, MP Nazim said Kuribee islanders wanted the length of the harbour increased as well.

In response, Muiz said additional changes could be made in another phase after completing the project and “seeing how it is being used.”

Muiz also offered updates to a number of other MPs about harbour construction for islands in their constituencies. While harbour construction usually takes 12 months, he explained that delays were often caused by shortage of material.


Projects awarded to MTCC increases fourfold

The state-owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) has said that the number of projects awarded to the company has increased fourfold in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period last year.

MTCC revealed in its first quarterly report for 2014 made public yesterday that 18 projects have been awarded to the company this year while only four were awarded in the first quarter of 2013.

While the company completed several harbour and construction projects this year, MTCC noted that difficulties in importing construction material from India had stalled progress.

Among the projects completed by the MTCC during the first quarter included a harbour construction project in Faafu Bilehdhoo, deepening of a channel in Haa Alifu Kelaa, harbour construction in Laamu Kunahandhoo, and development of the Thaa Thimarafushi Domestic Airport.


MTCC and government finalising agreement for construction of 22 harbours

The Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) is in talks with the government to finalise an agreement to construct 22 harbours under a so-called contractor finance policy.

MTCC CEO Dr Ahmed Adham has told local media that the government has agreed to guarantee a loan of US$30 million required for undertaking the project, with the state then having a five year grace period to pay for the construction under the proposed policy.

“Despite the government guarantee, we will be repaying the loan. In addition we are currently engaged in discussions with our equipment partners to come to an agreement,” Adham was quoted as saying by newspaper Haveeru.

Reports over the new agreement come days after the government announced it would be delaying implementation of any new development projects financed out of the state budget due to shortfalls in its revenue.

The decision to suspend new projects was revealed earlier this week by Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz during the signing of contracts to build harbours in four islands.

Muiz said at the time that he was instructed by the finance ministry not to commence any further infrastructure projects included in the 2013 budget, such as harbour construction or land reclamation.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad said the reported agreement set to be signed between the government and MTCC was not related to the decision to delay starting any further development projects.

Jihad added that the harbour developments currently under discussion as part of the contractor finance policy had already been included within the state budget.

“It is just the mode of financing that is different,” he said today.

According to local media, the MTCC plans to sign the new harbour agreement with the government next week.

There have been “constraints” to obtain funds for projects already awarded by the government, however Adham Haveeru he was “confident the government will hold up its end in the new contracts and make the progressive payments.”

“We are presently carrying out projects under progressive payment policy. Government has assured us that it would make the payments without interruption.”

Currently the MTCC is conducting work on harbor projects for 17 government-assigned islands.