The Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) has begun a program to further develop the airport, to be done in multiple phases.
Launching a program worth US$5 million to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport’s (INIA) ground handling on Thursday, MACL Managing Director ‘Bandhu’ Ibrahim Saleem revealed that various plans had been set in place for the development of INIA.
President Abdulla Yameen has today been quoted in Indian media as stating that any future management of the airport will not be carried out by foreign companies – with the Maldives government itself the preferred overseer.
Saleem told local media that, in addition to the introduction of new baggage tractors – launched during Thursday’s event – the company will also be introducing four new passenger carrier buses, heavy load vehicles for baggage carrying, a new baggage staircase and a mechanism to assist with boarding and unboarding patients with medical conditions within a period of 60 days.
He added that the projects are being conducted under the government’s 100 day policy implementation plans.
The record US$511 million development of the airport under Indian infrastructure giant GMR was prematurely terminated under the previous administration, prompting the filing of a US$1.4 billion arbitration case in Singapore.
Saleem explained that the ground handling equipment currently in use is old and damaged, which causes unnecessary delays in operations, assuring that the introduction of new equipment will allow passengers to observe a “remarkable improvement” in the speed of service.
“We are spending company money on these programs. We have not been able to purchase any such equipment since 2007,” he was quoted as saying.
Many projects underway
According to Saleem, the program is one among many development plans the company is undertaking.
Stating that the biggest challenge faced by the airport today is the issue of flight trafficking, he said that a permanent solution to overcrowding in the airport can only be found through the building of a second runway. He did, however, note that such a project would take a “tremendous amount of time”.
Adding that a review of the previously compiled Scottwilson development master plan of the airport would commence in the next two weeks, Saleem said that compiling such a plan anew would take around one year. He stated that global experts will be arriving within two weeks to assist in reviewing and updating the plans.
While the government is deliberating on undertaking such a project, said Saleem, reclaiming land and building a new runway would itself take at least two years to reach completion.
“Flyme is bringing in a new plane. Maldivian is also bringing in another new plane. So we need a runway upgrade at the airport as soon as possible. Nevertheless, it is not an easy thing to do,” he said.
The managing director added that, while these projects are pending, the airport is currently implementing smaller development projects immediately. As an example, he revealed that the construction of a new 35,000 square meter flight apron will be contracted to an external party in the next two weeks.
“We cannot do airport development in bits and pieces separately. It must be done all together. Once the Stockwilson plan is reviewed, we can begin the main work,” he said.
Saleem added that in 2014 itself, the airport traffic will increase immensely, and that the government will be focusing on reviewing the Stockwilson plan with a focus on connecting the airport to Malé.
GMR welcome to engage in other projects, not airport development: president
Meanwhile, President Abdulla Yameen has told Indian media that the Maldivian government is not even considering resuming the airport development contract with Indian infrastructure giant GMR.
While he repeated that the government is seeking an out of court settlement regarding the arbitration case concerning the cancellation of the GMR contract in the Waheed administration, Yameen said that the Maldives “had nothing against the GMR itself”.
“I am not saying we are saying no to GMR. What I am saying is total management of the airport is far too important for the Maldivian government (to hand over). We have nothing against GMR of any Indian company. It is just that the international airport is far too important for us, commercially and from a security point of view,” Yameen is quoted as saying to Indian publication The Hindu.
“The total operation of our airport will probably not go to any foreign party. Probably not even go to a Maldivian company. It will be undertaken by the MACL, a 100 percent government company,” he stated.
Yameen affirmed that deliberations of settling the GMR issue out of court has already begun, adding that the company is welcome to pursue other projects in the country.