A boat stopped by the police and coastguard with illegally mined sand on Friday was registered to a subcontractor of the Chinese company that built the Sinamalé bridge.
The vessel belongs to Hunan Oubo Technology, police clarified Saturday after the Chinese embassy in Malé denied reports that attributed the boat’s ownership to the CCCC Second Harbour Engineering, the company that built the country’s first overwater bridge between the capital Malé and the airport island.
Videos and photos posted on social media Friday showed the boat loaded with sand outside the island of Hithadhoo in Laamu atoll. It was transporting the sand to a resort under development in the neighbouring Huvadhu atoll, according to police.
The videos prompted the environment minister to ask police to determine whether the boat had a permit to transport the sand.
In a statement Saturday, the Maldives Customs Service said the vessel had been operating without authorisation.
“Vessels that have traveled in and out of the Maldives must seek permission from customs for all transactions conducted in the country. The use of such vessels brought for large economic projects in the Maldives for unauthorised purposes is illegal,” customs noted.
Customs monitor such vessels through the local agent with whom it is registered, it added.
In a separate incident, customs said it was investigating a foreign vessel that was transporting uprooted palm trees from Gan island in Laamu atoll.
The tree removal was authorised by the island council but a joint inquiry with the Environmental Protection Agency was ongoing, customs said.
The quasi-independent EPA has increasingly come under fire for authorising the mass removal of mature trees for the landscaping of new resorts developed on reclaimed land.
Thousands of coconut palms and other trees have been removed from inhabited islands and farming islands over the past eight months for landscaping the artificial islands.
The crew of this Chinese boat, anchored near Laamu Hithadhoo, said they were taking sand from Male’ to Dubai under the bridge agreement with the Chinese government affiliated company. No registration, no flag. @SaveMaldivesMV @edzyadam @mohamedseeneen pic.twitter.com/aRYRNJunlA
— Hassan🎈 (@Venubadeyri) May 24, 2019
@EPAMaldives is investigating claims of a boat anchored near Laamu Hithadhoo taking sand from Male’ to Dubai. We can confirm no such permit was issued by @EPAMaldives. If this claim found to be, we will take necessary action to stop this illegal activity.
— Environment.gov.mv (@EnvGovMv) May 24, 2019