Chinese-built airport project helps Maldives tourism take off

18 May 2024 01:00pm
This photo taken on April 28, 2024 shows the seaplane terminal at Velana International Airport in Male, the Maldives. - Photo by XINHUA
This photo taken on April 28, 2024 shows the seaplane terminal at Velana International Airport in Male, the Maldives. - Photo by XINHUA

MALE - As planes from around the world land smoothly at Velana International Airport in the Maldives, workers from Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) are busy decorating the new VIP terminal with strips and wood veneers, during the May Day International Labor Day, to ensure the airport ancillary facilities project is delivered as scheduled.

This is the sixth Labor Day that Sun Luzhen, executive project manager of BUCG's Velana International Airport expansion and upgrading project, has spent in Male.

He remembered his first time arriving in Male years ago when people often said the airport was not like one in an international tourist resort, as people had to queue for hours for check-in.

In 2014, China and the Maldives signed an agreement on the expansion and upgrading of the airport, the gateway connecting the Maldives with the world.

The project faced multiple challenges at the start. Zhao Guangyong from BUCG said almost all construction materials and equipment had to be imported, and procurement and transportation often took a long time.

"When we first discussed the plan together, we had differences in design concept and culture between the two countries," Zhao said.

As the two sides worked together on the construction of a new office building and a new runway, their trust has deepened, and Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) has signed new agreements with BUCG.

Now the airport has a wider apron, more modern functions, and more abundant supporting facilities such as fire stations and fuel depots. The newly built runway can accommodate the takeoff and landing of the largest aircraft in the world.

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In the past 10 years, the airport has renovated and expanded an apron area of approximately 250,000 square meters, and a new reclamation area of about 750,000 square meters, significantly increasing passenger capacity.

"BUCG symbolizes quality, timeliness and professionalism. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, all the projects were delivered on schedule," said MACL Chief Development Officer Mohamed Solah.

"Whenever we encounter difficulties, BUCG is always there to help," Solah said.

When the airport had a temporary power failure a few days ago, Solah said, they made an emergency call to BUCG. "Although handling such an emergency was not in the contract, BUCG sent 50 employees to help us with repairs and restored the power supply immediately."

With the completion and delivery of each project, the friendship between BUCG and MACL has also deepened.

Ibrahim Shareef Mohamed, CEO and managing director of MACL, said he was deeply impressed by the fact that BUCG reasonably adjusted construction schedules and allocated working hours during important local religious festivals.

"During Ramadan, they never eat or drink in front of us. We are deeply moved by their sincerity and respect for our culture. We get along very well, and I often take my family to taste their Chinese cuisine," he said.

Sukey Lv, a BUCG employee who married a Maldivian seven years ago, said Maldivians have long dreamed about a sea-crossing bridge and a modern airport.

"They often say that if a project is given to China, they will never let you down." - XINHUA

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