Seaplane terminal to be opened in May under MACL operation

Preparations are underway to open the new seaplane terminal being developed at the country's main airport in May 2020.

Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) that operates Velana international Airport (VIA) on Wednesday conducted a media tour on airport development. While a large percentage of the seaplane terminal has been completed, finishing works are ongoing on the building's interior.

At the press conference held at VIA, Acting Managing Director of MACL Moosa Solih said the seaplane terminal can accomodate all four seaplane operators registered in the Maldives. If the work proceeds on schedule, the terminal will reach completion by May, he added.

"We are developing [the seaplane terminal] with state-of-the-art technology. The jetty itself has a guarantee of at least 50 years. This jetty is quite different from the jetties we normally see. We are hopeful of beginning operation at the terminal by next May," said Solih.

While it has been rumored that the operation of seaplane terminal will be handed over to a foreign company, MACL on Wednesday refuted the rumors.

Answering questions posed by journalists, MD Solih confirmed that the seaplane terminal will be operated by MACL.

"We will not be taking the charge immediately, There is a contract in place, and this is the mid-peak season. A peak season will follow [the opening of the terminal]. Therefore, we are working to ensure that the transition is smooth. 70% of seaplanes in the Maldives are operated by TMA. We will transition services to this terminal in such a way that it does not affect the services provided by them," said Solih.

The new seaplane terminal is being developed such that it can cater to 55 seaplanes simultaneously. The terminal was designed in such a way that this number can be increased to 100 if needed.

Acting MD Solih said the company will begin issuing spots to seaplane operators early next year, however, it will take approximately five months for the changes to fully take effect.

The Auditor General's Office has conducted an audit on the seaplane terminal project in the past. AVAS has learnt that the results of the audit concluded that high profits will be reaped if MACL operated the terminal.

Solih said although the revenue generated through the terminal was previously unknown, it is evident that the turnover will be higher if MACL operated the terminal.

"If we operate this terminal, the revenue will increase 300 to 400 times. That does not mean the expenditure incurred will be recovered overnight. Our expenditure estimates are made in a way that it can be covered even with minimal revenue. Feasibility studies showed it could take approximately eight to nine years. However, looking at the growth now, it is probable that it can be recovered earlier," said Solih.

The foundation of the seaplane terminal was laid during the tenure of former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom on January 29, 2018. The terminal is being developed after reclaiming 32,000 square meters from the airport island's lagoon. While the total project cost is estimated to be US$ 40 million, the seaplane terminal is spread over an area of 14,000 square meters. The terminal is being developed by China's Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG), the same company building the airport's new runway.

The total cost of the massive airport development project undertaken by the government is estimated to cost more than US$ 800 million. The development of a new passenger terminal at the airport has been contracted to Saudi Arabia's Bin Laden Group, and a 3400 meter long runway has been developed by BUCG under the project. The runway alone costs a whopping US$ 373 million. While a new cargo terminal and a fuel farm are also being established, the new passenger terminal is estimated to be ready by 2022.