The government of China will provide free maintenance assistance for the Sinamalé Bridge, which connects Malé to Hulhumalé via Velana International Airport (VIA), for another three years, Minister of Construction and Infrastructure Abdulla Muththalib has confirmed.

The minister, speaking to local media on Monday, said that the bridge, which was completed in 2018, had been maintained by the company that had constructed it for two years and that the contract had not been renewed since, leading to a lack of proper upkeep.

“There hasn’t been much maintenance since then except sweeping and cleaning,” Muththalib said.

He highlighted that the maintenance of the structure was a priority and that the bridge’s expansion joints, which needed regular cleaning, had not been properly serviced in recent years.

“The Chinese government has again agreed to do it for another three years under grant aid. Although the contractor has not yet signed on, one has been identified,” he said.

The Chinese government will sign the agreement as soon as it gets the necessary permits from the relevant authorities, he said.

The previous administration had said earlier last year that it had decided to extend the contract with China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) for the maintenance of the bridge; however, no further updates on progress were provided.

The bridge underwent repair and maintenance late last year after being handed over to Stelco.

The Sinamalé Bridge, the largest existing infrastructure project in the Maldives so far, cost approximately US$200 million, of which US$116 million was grant aid from the Chinese government. China facilitated a loan of US$72 million for the remainder of the funding required, while the Maldivian government put up US$12 million.