Fishermen are complaining of lack of dock space at Malé’s harbors after fishing boats were cleared out from the new presidential jetty, Izzuddin pier.
Some fishermen are now swimming to shore with their catch because they are unable to unload at the congested local market harbor, the only area open to fishermen now.
The entryway to the local market harbor area is completely blocked.
The state owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) is leasing the dock space near the Izzuddin pier under new regulations, and has prevented fishing vessels from anchoring at the area.
Despite congestion at the local market harbor, Izzuddin pier remains clear of all boat traffic.
Many boat owners say they are no longer able to enter Malé’s harbors.
Solah, who owns a fishing boat, said he has to travel from one harbor to the next in search of a space to dock, costing thousands of rufiyaa in fuel.
“Since Wednesday we have had to dock at nearby harbors on such as Villingili, Hulhulé and Gulhifalhu, and finally after three days we managed to get a space from the Malé harbor,” he said.
The government is driving out fishing vessels and cargo vessels carrying produce from the islands, he alleged. “Perhaps the message is ‘we do not want you here.'”
Ahmed Ali, an elderly fisherman who was busily unloading fish, urged the government to open up the unoccupied Izzuddin pier for boats from the atolls on the condition that it is cleared for special functions.
“We cannot operate like this for long, the government needs to find us a permanent solution.”
All of the Malé’s harbors were previously managed by the opposition dominated Malé City Council, but President Abdulla Yameen has put the housing ministry in charge following drastic changes to the Decentralization Act.
Shamau Shareef, a Malé City councilor, described the clearing of the Izzuddin pier as “discrimination towards the people of the atolls.”
“The government’s decisions are taken just out of the blue, without consultation with the public. This shows that they do not have a collective long term plan for the redevelopment of Malé,” he said.
The housing ministry was not responding to calls at the time of going to press. The Maldives Independent was unable to obtain a response from the government as offices are closed for the Eid Al-Adha break.
Many boat owners also complained that even when they do find dock space, they are now unable to leave the local market harbor due to congestion.
The owner of Fahimas, a fishing vessel from Shaviyani Atoll Komandoo, urged the government to set up regulations on docking and anchoring in the local market harbor.
“Regulations must be put in place so that one vessel cannot anchor and occupy the space forever, there should be a limit on the period of time a particular vessel can spend in the harbor given the limited resources,” he said.
Another fisherman from Noonu Atoll who was reluctant to give his name said harbor congestion is causing damage to vessels.
“Since navigating within the harbor during entering and exiting is so difficult due to congestion, collision with vessels is common. The other day my boat’s suffered cracks in an accident,” he said.
Councillor Shamau, meanwhile, criticized the government for allegedly failing to clean out the polluted local market harbor.