New seaplane terminal at Maldives main airport nears completion

A new seaplane terminal being developed at the Maldives main airport is nearing completion.

Maldives Airports Company Limited (MALC) said Wednesday that 80 per cent of seaplane docking platforms had been installed and fuel lines for the docks are being laid out.

Ninety per cent of the internal works of the terminal had also been completed.

“95 per cent of total project is completed,” the state-owned airport operator said on Twitter.

The terminal was set to open for operations in May, but the coronavirus pandemic and disputes on its operational arrangement delayed construction.

The new terminal will initially be operated jointly by all the operators. MACL will fully take over the operations of the terminal in three years.

The new seaplane terminal is being built on reclaimed lagoon behind the air traffic control tower on the eastern side of the airport island of Hulhule. The new terminal sits on 18,000 square metres of reclaimed land and the accompanying seaplane hanger is being built on additional 14,000 square metres of reclaimed land.

The water aerodrome of the new terminal will initially have the capacity to accommodate 55 seaplanes at a time, but can be expanded to accommodate 100.

Four operators can comfortably provide service from the four-storey terminal.

Passenger facilities at the new terminal will include a spacious arrival lobby, VIP lounges and restaurants.

The terminal, which costs USD 40 million, is part of a USD 800 million mega project to expand and upgrade the Maldives’ main gateway to cater to at least seven million passengers per annum. The project also involves building a brand new runway and a new international passenger terminal, as well as other support facilities, including a fuel farm that can store 45 million litres and a 120,000 tonne cargo facility.

Seaplane is the preferred mode of transport between the main Velana International Airport and dozens of resorts, especially those located in outer atolls.

Three airlines currently provide seaplane service: flagship carrier Maldivian, and privately run Trans Maldivian Airways and Manta Air. Private airline Villa Air’s Flyme is also set to begin seaplane operations soon.

TMA, which is controlled by a consortium led by US-based Bain Capital and Chinese conglomerate Tempus Group, operates an all-amphibian fleet of more than 50 aircraft, making it the largest seaplane operator in the world.

Maldivian has a fleet of 10 seaplanes.

Manta Air, which launched the Maldives’ first scheduled seaplane service in November, uses six Twin Otter aircraft.

Before the pandemic, the seaplane operators were investing heavily in expanding their operations, especially their fleet. The expansion came in line with growing tourist arrivals and increasing bed capacity due to the opening of dozens of new resorts in the Maldives.

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