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.


MTCC to purchase US$36 million dredger

The Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) has revealed plans to purchase a US$36 million land reclamation dredger, reports local media.

According to Vnews, the purchase of the dredger would make it the biggest and most expensive to be operated locally in the Maldives.

MTCC CEO Ibrahim Abdul Razzaq told Vnews that the dredger is a ‘hopper suction dredger’, which would be capable of reclaiming one hectare in just two days.

“This is an investment to ease the land reclamation projects done in the Maldives,” said Ibrahim. “We are currently talking with Holland’s IHC Company regarding the purchase, the dredger will be designed to be suitable for Maldives.”

Source: Vnews


Ferry tales – Managing the Hulhumalé commute

Sunday (November 16) will mark 100 days since Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan disappeared. As friends and family continue to hope for his safe return, some of Rilwan’s best work will be re-published as a reminder of his talents and dedication to his profession.

This article was originally published on January 27, 2014.

It was 23:30, a large number of people were gathered outside Hulhumalé ferry terminal in Malé, the kind of crowd that usually gathers around a crime scene. But no crime was committed there – no police lines visible.

The people were gathering there to board the ferry to Hulhumalé – an extension of Malé City separated by sea, one of the greater Malé islands. Ferry service staff in blue uniforms were guarding the entrance to three tightly packed terminal waiting areas, as those outside anxiously awaited news of an extra ferry that might shorten the otherwise two-hour wait.

Adam Humam, a tour guide who lives in Hulhumalé hears nothing but complains about the ferry service:

“Look at this ferry, this thing is like a sauna most of the time. One will need to take a shower after traveling on this. Just look at how they have arranged the seats, we have to sit so tightly packed” Humam said, leaning away from the chair to avoid bumping into the next passenger.

The ferry concerned was an average wooden Dhoni, furnished with ten rows of plastic chairs screwed to the floor. The gangway led to two rows of motorbikes at the rear of the boat. Most windows on both sides were shut by the people adjacent, to shelter from occasional splashes of water. A few travellers stood at the back of the ferry – unable to find a seat. The smell was a mix of sea, old wood, and bodily odors.

With few exceptions, almost everyone who were interviewed about the 20 minute ferry service was unhappy with the service. The conditions of the ferry, the terminal and timings – it was all unsatisfactory for most questioned. Just a few long- time residents of Hulhumalé recalled the ferry services having improved significantly in the past decade.

Hulhumalé – a reclaimed landmass measuring 2 square kilometers off the north-east coast of Malé City – is home to an estimated 20,000 people. First settled in May 2004 with just one thousand people, the population of Hulhumalé is expected to double to 60,000 by 2020. The ferry service, operated by the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC), is clearly finding it hard to cater to Hulhumalé’s population boom.

The MTCC has often said the ferry operation is not profitable at current rates, though Malé City Mayor Maizan Ali ‘Alibe’ Manik says that company can manage by investing in lands provided for them to subsidise the service. The Housing Development Corporation (HDC) – the government owned corporation mandated with the development and management of Hulhumalé – remains uninvolved in the MTCC’s operations. The transport authority, however, does have a mandate to monitor and regulate all ferry services in the country.

How is the service?

“What can I say? My wife and I moved to Hulhumalé three years back, and riding this ferry to and fro every day has been nothing but a pain. I developed a pilonidal sinus, and the doctor says it is sitting for such a long time and the terrible vibrations these boats give” said a young man in his late twenties.

Another couple who moved to Hulhumalé very recently had a different complaint, fearing the procedure of getting their motor bike on to the ferry – riding over a metal sheet placed against the ferry – could damage it over time.

Leevan Shareef, a vocal critic of the Hulhumalé ferry service on Twitter, sometimes has to spend two hours commuting between Hulhumalé and Malé. The MTCC does not increase ferry services during busy days – such as when political rallies are held in Malé – or on Friday evening, when a lot of people visit Hulhumalé, he complained.

“We complain to the ferry crew or staff at the counter, they will always say the issue will be brought to the attention of superiors. But there is no news of these superiors ever,” he said.

Mahdi Shahid, Deputy Principal of Lalé Youth International School, was among the first people to use the ferry service. His view was that the ferries have improved in the past ten years.

“Looking back, I would say it has actually improved a lot. Back then the ferry docked at the far north of the island, there were no trees, there was nothing over there. And we had to walk all the way from there to the school. It was a very small ferry then, but now the ferries are bigger and they travel more frequently,” Shahid explained.

“I think the current service would be okay, if the population wasn’t increasing so rapidly. but with the current population growth I think there should be an increase in number of ferries now. What I’m looking for is getting on the ferry and leaving without having to wait there for so long,” he added.

Currently the ferries operate between 05:30am and 02:30am, with eighty-two rounds between the two islands every day except for Fridays when ferries services are interrupted briefly for prayers.

Not profitable

Though the MTCC was unwilling to discuss the ferry service with the media, some ferry crew and staff noted that there were many challenges facing the company.

One such issue was that of Malé harbor, which they noted did not allow several ferries to operate simultaneously. “Sometimes we have to wait five minutes outside the harbor entrance, waiting for other ferries including those leaving for Hulhulé [the airport island] to leave,” said one crew member.

Four months ago, ferryboat owners – who lease their boats to the MTCC – went on strike after a failure to receive payments. The MTCC blamed this on delays in receiving payments from various government projects undertaken in various parts of the country. The company has often reiterated that its operations are not profitable at current rates. Ferry rates have risen at least twice since operations began in 2004, though other attempts to increase prices have been met with protests from Hulhumalé residents, usually ending with interventions from the city council and HDC.

In 2012, transport services in the Malé region contributed to thirteen percent of the MTCC’s operating profits, however the net loss in this sector has been gradually increasing over the past five years. The loss for transport services in the Male’ region in 2012 was reported to be MVR15.69 million (US$1 million).

Finding a solution

While accepting there are challenges in providing this service, Malé City Mayor “Maizan” Ali Manik (Alibe) said that a lack of profitability should not result in a bad service or higher fares.

“They always say they are operating ferries at loss. Yes, but services should be provided even at loss. All services provided by the state cannot be for profit,” Alibe said.

The MTCC could turn this around if they would invest in lands provided to them to subsidise these services, said the mayor. The ferry terminal land in both Malé and nearby Villingili islands were given to MTCC free of charge, and the plot for Hulhumalé terminal was given at ‘a very small rate’ according to HDC. The rent for businesses at ferry terminals – including the popular Sea House Cafe’ – goes to the MTCC.

“They can develop these land make profit in many ways” Alibe said, assuring that the city council was ready to help the MTCC in any such ventures.

Alibe stated his belief that the ferry service is gradually improving, and that some of the ferries were now of a high standard. However, if the MTCC is unable to fulfil its promises to improve the services by themselves, a second party might have be brought in, said the mayor.

The Housing Development Corporation

The MTCC has been providing public ferry and bus services for the Hulhumalé community since its inception, under an understanding with the HDC, which is currently in the process of formulating a formal agreement between the two companies. The services were provided for nearly ten years without any formal agreement.

Highlighting the HDC’s role in the ferry service, Deputy Managing Director Mohamed Shahid said the corporation does not get involved in business operations of some services such as the ferry operation in Hulhuamalé.

“We share [with MTCC] information regarding the population here and we try to provide adequate facilities for [serving] that [population]… we know that due to resources limitations there are some issues in both ferry and bus service,” he said.

According to Shahid, a set of standards and timings for operating bus and ferry services have been prepared and shared with the MTCC. The regulatory authority for travel operations of all ferry services, however, is the Transport Authority which has developed its own guidelines.

HDC Deputy Director Abdulla Fayaz said they were also looking into issues with ferry services, and communicating with the MTCC to resolve concerns raised by the public: “We do conduct surveys and maintain statistics regarding customers…this information is also shared with MTCC.”


Despite the optimism expressed by both the HDC and the city council with regards to improving the quality of  services, many people who frequent these ferries remained sceptical.

The current government has joined the prior three administrations in pledging to connect Hulhumalé and Malé  with a bridge. The government is currently in the process of reviewing proposals to build this bridge. Until then, thousands of people continue to dream of a better ferry service.


MTCC not responsible for severe sand spill on Komandoo reef, says environment minister

The state owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) will not be penalised for a severe sand spill on the reef of Komandoo Island in Shaviyani Atoll, Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim told parliament today.

The sand spill – which has destroyed large swathes of the island’s reef – was caused by a storm surge, Thoriq said.

The MTCC – in charge of a coastal protection and land reclamation project on the island – had implemented the required measures to prevent sand spills, but bad weather and swells caused the erosion of reclaimed areas and washed piled up sand onto the reef, Thoriq said.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Komandoo MP Ahmed Nashid blamed the MTCC’s slow progress for the sand spill, claiming the sand piles had been left on the island’s shores since 2012.

If the project had been completed on time, the spill would not have taken place, he suggested.

Minister Thoriq told the Majlis this morning that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) had acknowledged sand had spilled onto the reef.

“However, the island council’s members said the spill was not reported in case it may halt the project,” said Thoriq.

MP Nashid had summoned the minister for questioning, asking if the ministry had done a survey of damages and if the MTCC would be penalised for the spill.

Thoriq said the environment ministry had not been informed of the spill prior to Nashid raising the issue, but had monitored the area afterwards. An EPA team had visited the site and found the MTCC had followed all environmental procedures outlined in the environmental impact assessment report, he explained.

According to Thoriq – who said the exact date of the spill was unknown – explained that the sand had now washed off into the ocean with currents and the reef was showing signs of regeneration.

If any party reports environmental violations, the EPA will inspect site and take required action, he added.

The ministry does not have the capacity to monitor all ongoing projects, and will only begin an inspection if a violation is reported. But the ministry does take punitive action against companies who violate EIAs, he insisted.

The government intends to carry out projects to address erosion in seven islands this year, the minister told MPs, with approximately 97 percent of inhabited islands in the Maldives reporting severe erosion.

The government will spend MVR116.3 million (US$ 7.5 million) on protecting 3,482 meters of shore in the seven islands, he said.

In May, environmental NGO EcoCare accused Netherlands based Boskalis of committing environmental crimes after it caused sand to be deposited onto Baa Atoll Eydhafushi Island during a reclamation project.

The company’s rainbow technique for reclamation had also covered houses and vegetation on Eydhafushi and Raa Meedhoo Island with sand and water.

Minivan News was unable to reach the EPA to confirm if action had been taken against Boskalis for damages.


Civil Court orders DRP to pay over MVR1.1 million to MTCC

The Civil Court has on Sunday ordered the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) to pay MVR1,111,438.96 (USD72,406.45) to Maldives Transport and Contract Company Plc (MTCC).

The party was taken to court by the MTCC after its failure to pay this amount for services rendered to the party during the 2008 presidential elections, in which the party’s then-leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom lost to the Maldivian Democratic Party’s Mohamed Nasheed.

The Civil Court verdict in the case orders the party to split the payment and complete payments within a period of six months.

Earlier in April, the Civil Court ordered the party to pay back a debt of over MVR700,000 (USD45,602.61) to HUB Company. The DRP was later fined by the court for ts  failure to complete payment as per court orders.

Island Aviation Services are also currently suing the party seeking repayment of debts. After backing unsuccessful candidates during the 2013 presidential election, the DRP failed to win any seats in the 2014 Majlis elections.


Security cameras at ferry terminals to be integrated with police network

Police have held discussions with the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) on Monday (September 1) about connecting security cameras at ferry terminals to the police camera network.

Police agreed to assist MTCC with installation of additional cameras and begin the integration process for monitoring ferry terminals, according to police media.

“The Maldives Police Services was represented at the meeting by the Head of the Central Operations Command, Chief Superintendent of Police Ismail Naveen, the Deputy Head of the Central Operations Command, Superintendent of Police, Abdulla Shareef and high ranking members from the Maafannu Galolhu, Villimalé and Hulhumalé Police Stations while the MTCC was represented by their General Manager, Ismail Adhuham and some of their senior members,” police said.

Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, who is believed to have been abducted outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé, was last seen on the Malé-Hulhumalé ferry.

While Rilwan was seen on CCTV footage at the ferry terminal in Malé, there were no security cameras at the ferry terminal in Hulhumalé.


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.


MTCC introduces new Hulhumalé – Malé ferry schedule for Ramadan

Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) has introduced two new ferries and increased ferry services between Malé and suburb Hulhumalé during peak hours for the month of Ramdan.

According to the new ferry schedule, ferries will run every five minutes between 8:15am – 9:10am and 2:00 pm and 2:20 pm on workdays, and between 10am – 11:15am and 2pm – 2:20pm on weekends.

At other times, ferries will depart every 15 minutes.

Residents of Hulhumalé have complained about delay and overcrowding on ferries.


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.