The new airport in Noonu Atoll Maafaru has been completed, and awaits the final formalities before its official opening.
The international airport in Maafaru, which was built under the aid of Abu Dhabi Development Fund (ADFD), will act as an international gateway that will bring prosperity to the whole of Miladhunmadulu, which comprises of the atolls of Shaviyani and Noonu.
The people of Maafaru have been voicing their desire for an airport for several years, and have even been forced to protest and go on strike to make sure their demands are met by the government. The airport project was awarded by the government to two different Maldivian companies, although no significant progress was made by either of them. The hopes of Maafaru finally came into fruition when Singapore’s Tuff Offshore Engineering Services Private Limited took over the project on December 24, 2017, to build an international airport in Maafaru under the aid of ADFD.
The airport has been developed with a 2 km long runway, and all the facilities required in a standard international airport. Although the airport can now be officially opened, Tuff says this is only the first phase of the project and that a second phase will commence later which will see the airports runway extended by reclaiming land from the south of the island.
The second phase will also see the airport’s runway extended from the north, by allocating more land to the airport. At the end of the second phase, the airport will have the longest runway in the country. However, the work on Maafaru Airport has not been completed without obstructions and challenges. All the materials had to be imported to the country from abroad, while the transfer of materials to Maafaru presented challenges itself due to the isolated location of the island. These were some of the main reasons Maldivian companies could not carry out the airport project as planned.
However, under the exceptional management of Tuff Offshore Engineering Services, the project was fast tracked and completed within just one and half years. The first test flight landed at the airport over nine months ago, and over 30 different flights have landed at the airport for various purposes since.
The government had initially planned to begin operations at the airport this month. However, due to a slight change in plans, the airport is now officially set to be opened in September. Responding to questions from the parliament member representing Maafaru, Ahmed Haroon, Transport Minister Aishath Nahula had also confirmed that the government is set to open the airport in September.
Although the government has announced that the airport will be officially opened within a month, it is still not clear if the government has identified a company that can operate the airport.