The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has issued a statement to clear up misunderstandings about the Uthuru Thilafalhu (UTF) harbour and dockyard project. Recent speculations suggested that the harbour could accommodate large foreign military vessels, but MNDF says this isn’t the case.

A design drawing for the UTF project had been making the rounds on social media, and MNDF confirmed that it was indeed an authentic representation of the project’s layout. The UTF harbour will offer a 300-metre docking area, a significant upgrade from the current 270-metre space in Hulhumalé. The project also plans to include a slipway and repair facilities for boats weighing under 500 gross tonnes. 

MNDF emphasised that the UTF site is being developed exclusively for MNDF Coastguard ships and the harbour won’t be suitable for any ships larger than the Coastguard’s own vessel, known as ‘Hurvaee’. With this clarification, MNDF refuted claims that the harbour could host foreign military ships, many of which weigh well above 500 gross tonnes.

This clarification comes after an incident where reporters from local news outlet Dhiyares attempted to enter the military site without permission. MNDF reminded the public that military installations are off-limits without proper authorisation, and that military personnel have a legal duty to keep unauthorised individuals out.

The UTF project is being carried out with financial assistance from the Indian government, and this has led to various inaccurate reports in the media. MNDF is urging the public and media outlets to rely on accurate information, given the harbour’s significant role in enhancing the MNDF Coastguard’s operational capabilities. The new facility aims to solve ongoing issues with maintenance and repair of larger Coastguard vessels, which currently lack a proper docking space.

While MNDF’s statement may clear up some of the questions, lingering issues around the project’s transparency and concerns about foreign influence in the Maldives are still hot topics. However, MNDF aims to put to rest at least some worries about the UTF harbour’s capacity and intended use.