Maleâ€™s Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, the capital city gateway of the Island nation of the Maldives, has started work on the biggest expansion programme in its history.
Funded by the government and loans from foreign investors, state-owned operator Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL) is looking to transform the gateway with a new 73,000sqm terminal and additional 3,400m runway.
Constructed by the Saudi Binladin Group (SBG), the new $800 million terminal will be built on reclaimed land to the south west of the existing facilities and raise the airportâ€™s capacity to 7.5 million passengers per annum when it opens in 2019.
Its facilities are expected to include 10 gates, including six with aerobridges, up to 40 check-in desks, a state-of-the-art baggage handing system and, just as importantly, a host of new revenue generating shops and F&B outlets.
MACL has chosen Chinaâ€™s Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) to build the new 3.4 kilometre long runway as well as a new fuel farm and cargo complex equipped to handle up to 120,000 tons of freight per annum.
The size of the new runway means that the gateway would be able to handle commercial aircraft up to the size of the A380.
The fuel farm will have a storage capacity 45 million litres of Jet A1 fuel along with fuel hydrant system.
State funding and loans have made MACLâ€™s highly ambitious development programme possible.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the airportâ€™s 50th birthday earlier this year, Maldives President, Abdulla Yameen, revealed that securing â€śthe syndicateâ€™s main fundingâ€ť for the project meant that it was now all systems go for the upgrade.
He also stated that he was confident that, with expansion, the airport would become â€śthe economic backbone of the Maldives and the main gateway of modern day developmentâ€ť.
Economic Development Minister, Mohamed Saeed, admits that the governmentâ€™s aim is to transform Ibrahim Nasir International Airport into a modern gateway worthy of the capital of the Maldives.
MACLâ€™s managing director, Adil Moosa, believes that Ibrahim Nasir International Airport will effectively be a â€śbrand new airportâ€ť once the developments are completed.
Around 1.2 million tourists visited the Maldives in 2015 and the figure is expected to grow significantly in the years ahead, boosted by the creation of 50 new resorts and the airportâ€™s expansion.
It is believed that tourism currently earns the tiny island nation around $3 billion a year and that the figure could rise to close to $5 billion within the next few years if the efforts to attract more foreign visitors prove successful.