Maldives main airport gets new apron

Velana International Airport on Wednesday marked the opening of a new apron at the Maldives main airport.

The apron, built on the southwestern side of the airport island of Hulhule, marked its opening with the arrival of flagship carrier Maldivian’s flight from Bangkok Wednesday morning. The Airbus A330 aircraft was given a water salute as it approached the apron for parking.

The 70,000 sqm apron has three Code E Multiple Aircraft Ramp System (MARS) stands, two dedicated Code E stands and one dedicated Code C stand. It has a combined capacity to accommodate either five wide body aircraft and one narrow body aircraft or two wide body aircraft with seven narrow body aircraft at a time.

Test operations were carried out at the apron last month, demonstrating the manoeuvrability of aircraft and ground handling equipment to comply with ICAO safety requirements.

State owned airport operator Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) is also building another new apron at the eastern side of the airport island. This 60,000 sqm apron will feature four MARS stands, which can accommodate either four wide body aircraft or eight narrow body aircraft at a time.

In addition to the minor improvements, a USD 800 million mega project has been launched to expand and upgrade the main Velana International Airport. The project involves building a brand new runwayan international passenger terminal and a seaplane terminal as well as other support facilities, including a fuel farm that can store 45 million litres and a 120,000 tonne cargo facility.

USD 570 million of the USD 800 million needed for the project have been raised from international financiers, especially Arab funding agencies. It includes a USD 100 million loan from Saudi Fund for Development, a USD 50 million loan from Kuwait Fund, a USD 50 million loan from OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and a USD 50 million loan from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.

China EXIM Bank also granted a loan of USD 400 million for the new runway, which was contracted to Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) of China. The new runway is set to come into operation later this year.

MACL had also invested USD 50 million from its own funds.

The airport is a key infrastructure that supports the Maldives multi-billion dollar tourism industry. Expansion of the airport is expected to boost tourist arrivals to the island nation as it aims to attract at least two million tourists by 2020.

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