While the administration, through the Ministry of Construction and Infrastructure, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China CAMC Engineering Company Limited (CAMCE) to further develop the airport at Kadhdhoo island, Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) also inked a deal with the same Chinese company to establish an integrated maritime hub at Gaadhoo Island. Both projects are based in Laamu Atoll.

Under the MPL-led project, an eco-tourism resort will also be developed between Gaadhoo and Fonadhoo islands in Laamu Atoll, with employees of the resort based in Fonadhoo during the initial development phase.

While environmental groups have expressed concern over the decision, as Gaadhoo is a protected island, MPL said over 80 percent of the island will remain untouched and protected.

A cruise terminal within the development will include customs, immigration, duty-free, and an inter-atoll shuttle hub, while also featuring a yacht marina and offshore bunkering services to take advantage of its location, being on one of the highest traffic east-west maritime routes in the world, MPL said.

While work on the development is yet to begin, MPL has already announced the recruitment of employees, with the project being part of President Mohamed Muizzu’s ‘Week14’ milestones.

President Muizzu had earlier announced his intention to devote part of the development around Kadhdhoo Airport, which is now under the Regional Airports Company Limited (RACL), to tourism.

Kadhdhoo Airport is one of the oldest domestic airports in the Maldives and a layover point for tourists visiting resorts in Laamu Atoll.

The previous administration planned to upgrade Kadhdhoo to an international airport, wherein in January 2023, the administration sought a developer to take on the project on a cross-subsidy funding basis. Reclamation work for the airport was awarded to the state-owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) in August.