The government has terminated contracts signed with Malaysia’s Gryphon Energy Corporation in March to build five domestic airports at a cost of US$57.5 million.
Sami Ageel, director of the Regional Airports agency, confirmed to state media Tuesday that the deals were scrapped on September 18 because the Malaysian company – which describes itself as “incorporated with a vision to be a niche service provider for the offshore oil and gas industry” – was unable to secure financing from an EXIM bank.
The government was ready to provide a sovereign guarantee for the loan, he noted, adding that discussions are underway with other interested parties.
The regional airports were to be developed on the islands of Kulhudhufushi in Haa Dhaal atoll, Funadhoo in Shaviyani atoll, Nilandhoo in Faafu atoll, and Maavarulu and Faresmaathoda in Gaaf Dhaal atoll.
The government says more regional airports will be needed when the expansion of the Velana International Airport is completed next year.
The majority of tourist resorts in the Maldives are located in the central atolls or “seaplane zone” near Malé. But more resorts are now under development in far-flung atolls. The VIA expansion would accommodate large jets and increase passenger capacity fivefold to about seven million passengers a year.
Some 1.3 million tourists visited the Maldives last year.
Developing an airport on Kulhudhufushi, a population hub in the north, is a campaign pledge of President Abdulla Yameen. But environmentalists have previously warned that it would destroy the island’s environmentally sensitive wetland area.
According to media reports, the largest state-owned dredger is expected to arrive in Kulhudhufushi on October 30 to begin reclamation work for the airport.
Regional Airports Director Sami Ageel told Avas that the Kulhudhufushi and Funadhoo airport projects have now been awarded to the state-owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company.
In addition to the five domestic airports in the pipeline, the government has also pledged to develop airports on the northern islands of Felivaru in Lhaviyani atoll, Fainu in Raa atoll, Maafaru in Noonu atoll, and Maafinolhu in the northernmost Haa Alif atoll.