President Mohamed Muizzu has unveiled an ambitious plan to augment the capacity of the country’s main airport, Velana International Airport (VIA). The expansion aims to accommodate up to 25 million passengers annually, a substantial increase from the current capacity. This announcement comes at a time when VIA is already undergoing an expansion project.

The comprehensive plan was disclosed at a ceremony held in Dharubaaruge on Thursday evening. The event served as a platform to present the administration’s intentions to develop the airport and the Economic Zone, dubbed by the President’s Office as a “megaproject.”

In his address at the ceremony, President Muizzu elucidated that this development phase would run concurrently with the ongoing expansion project. The objective is to increase the original capacity from seven million to a staggering 25 million passengers upon completion, he said.

The initial phase of the megaproject is slated to commence within the year, with the majority of the work expected to be completed within the administration’s five-year tenure, while significant developments are projected to be completed within the next decade, Muizzu added.

Ibrahim Shareef Mohamed, CEO and Managing Director of Maldives Airports Company Ltd. (MACL), provided further insights into the project. “The completion of most components of the ongoing expansion project at VIA later this year would lead to a 25 percent increase in job opportunities at MACL, equating to around 1,000 jobs,” he noted.

The new plan is comprehensive and includes several key components. These include the development of a new terminal capable of serving 25 million passengers annually, a domestic terminal servicing 2,000 passengers per hour, a dedicated terminal for private jets, and a low-cost carrier terminal accommodating 1,000 passengers per hour.

The plan also includes the expansion of seaplane operations, an increase in fuel capacity to 100 million litres, the development of a new maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) facility, an expansion of the cargo terminal capacity from 100,000 metric tonnes to 300,000 metric tonnes, and an increase in passenger plane parking from 34 to 73 spaces.

A task force has been established to advance the development work in line with the new plan, added Mohamed. However, the government has yet to disclose the financial cost of the new plan or the source of the funds.

The ongoing expansion work at VIA, which began in May 2016 under the administration of former President Abdul Yameen Abdul Gayoom, has seen numerous design changes to the new passenger terminal to ensure a more Maldivian aesthetic, including alterations to the facade of the terminal building. The design changes were made by the previous administration led by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.