Project to end airport issues: a reality?

  • Development cost US$ 800 million
  • Largest project carried out by MACL
  • Loan payback guaranteed

Flooding in Ibrahim Nasir International Airport is a common sight. Nearly every visitor to the country in recent years has been greeted with the similar sight of buckets placed in various parts of the airport. The airport frequented by millions every year, is known as the “bucket airport”.

Each and every Government had pledged to address the issue of the airport.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s take on resolving the airport issue was to lease the airport to India’s GMR for development. The project failed due to multiple issues.

The current government had launched an ambitious project to rapidly and radically change the face and operations of INIA.

  • Current status of airport
  • • Terminal area: 23,000 square meters
  • • Total number of airport users last year: 2.5 million
  • • Runway length: 3,200 meters
  • • Runway width: 45 meters
  • • Current oil storage: 11 million liters
  • • Number of aerobridges: 0

The airport development loan is one of the biggest loans taken in the nation’s history. President Abdullah Yameen had launched the airport development project in April. The investment is the largest investment in the fifty years of aviation history.

“This is the largest initiative in the history of the airport by MACL. Whether we can carry out this initiative is a question posed by many. They say the project is too expensive. We are confident that we can carry out the project. We are not just constructing a runway, the airport itself is being expanded,” MD Adil Moosa said.

The vision of President Yameen for the development of INIA is visionary. His determination to construct the bridge without giving out ownership of the bridge is strong. What would be the results of this endeavor?

  • Airport post development
  • • Length of new airport: 90,000 square feet
  • • Projected number of airport users per annum: 7.2 million
  • • Length of new runway: 3,400 meters
  • • Width of new runway: 60 meters
  • • New fuel farm capacity: 48 million liters
  • • Number of aerobridges: 9

Maldives had developed rapidly over the years. However, the airport failed to meet the development and the resultant demand caused by the rapid influx of tourists. One of the biggest challenges to the future development of the tourism sector in the country is the size of INIA. The airport is maxed on capacity in peak season.

Economic Minister Mohamed Saeed says the country cannot be marketed to new destinations without increasing the airport capacity to cater to that demand. He added that this was a hurdle in the development process of the country. Minister Saeed said the developed airport will be able to cater to demand for the next 20 or more years. Though risky, he said this was an essential step.

“We have to take this risk. The face of Maldives has to change. We have to take this step in changing the economic landscape,” Minister Saeed remarked.

The project once completed, will address the congestion in the airport and will provide land space to further planned projects and businesses.

The Government had estimated that once completed at the end of 2017, the airport will generate MVR 6 billion annually.

MD Adil had assured the loan repayments for the project, will be made from the earnings of MACL and that MACL had the capability to do so. Even the President himself had said the loan taken for the project will double the debt per citizen. However, the projections for productivity is expected to outpace the debt figure by a hundred times, which will easily offset the loans. Minister Saeed was quick to assure that MACL was a company capable of conducting the project and creating an impact.

“There is no question about MACL’s capability. We will demonstrate it can be made a success,” Minister assured.
The airport development project had already begun. MTCC had begun the initial phase of the project in the east side of Hulhule’. Within two to three years, the expansion will be complete and the airport will have the capacity to land A380 airbuses. MACL and the company’s board is geared towards making this a reality.

“We are working together; we will achieve the vision seen by President Yameen. We will not say that this is not possible. We are determined to bring this to the public,” MACL Chair and one of the early adopters of tourism in the country, Mohamed Umar Manik (MU Manik) said.

There is no doubt the project will come into fruition, according to the Government. What is left for the nation is to wait and witness the opening of a landmark that will leave an undeniable impact on the nation's history.