Minister of Economic Development and Trade Mohamed Saeed has announced that the government is planning to significantly expand the cargo terminal at the main Velana International Airport (VIA), with the aim of substantially increasing the tonnage of air cargo imported into the Maldives. He revealed the plan at the inauguration of a new cargo terminal at VIA, which was presided over by President Mohamed Muizzu.

The newly inaugurated cargo terminal boasts an annual capacity of 120,000 metric tonnes. This state-of-the-art facility supersedes the old cargo terminal, which could handle 50,000 tonnes of cargo annually and was constructed approximately 40 years ago. The expansion of the cargo terminal from 50,000 to 120,000 metric tonnes per annum is a significant milestone, according to Saeed.

“President Muizzu’s vision extends beyond mere infrastructural expansion, aiming to enhance cargo capacity to 300,000 metric tonnes. This goal underscores the necessity for a simultaneous increase in air cargo,” Saeed stated. The government is now actively working towards achieving this goal, he added.

“We have received a roadmap from the region’s largest air cargo economic zone and are in the advanced stages of formalising an agreement. It’s worth noting that this pertains to the largest air cargo terminal in the region.” Saeed said. He added that one of President Muizzu’s critical visions is to reduce the Maldives’ trade imbalance.

“Addressing the trade imbalance gap, with MVR 3.48 billion in imports and MVR 300 million in exports, represents the most practical and visionary decision a president can make,” Saeed stated. He also highlighted the government’s vision of increasing exports and pointed out the establishment of the Maldives Industrial Free Zone, which targets re-export. He added that the government’s vision of doubling the country’s GDP from MVR 6 billion to MVR 12 billion can be achieved through these initiatives.

Speaking at the function, Ibrahim Shareef, the CEO and Managing Director of Maldives Airports Company Ltd. (MACL), which operates VIA, disclosed that the development work for the new terminal had been “technically” completed in 2022. The facility was officially handed over to the government after construction in 2023, but he said there had been delays in making it operational.

“Every day that a completed facility like this remains unused, the people of the Maldives incur financial losses,” stated Shareef.

The new cargo terminal was developed as part of the VIA expansion project initiated in 2018 by President Abdul Yameen Abdul Gayoom. The project also saw the development of a new runway, which has since been completed and is currently being used, in addition to the now-under-construction passenger terminal. The project also features the development of a new fuel farm nearing completion.