Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) and China CAMC Engineering Co., Ltd. (CAMCE) have commenced the initial surveys for the proposed integrated maritime hub in Gaadhoo in Laamu Atoll, an area known for its ecological sensitivity. The project, which aims to transform Gaadhoo into a comprehensive maritime service centre, was awarded to the Chinese firm on April 11, despite ongoing international scrutiny over the contractor’s integrity.

The survey involved seven experts from CAMCE and a technical team from MPL, focusing on integrating a variety of maritime facilities, including a cruise terminal, an eco-resort, a superyacht marina, offshore bunkering, and a transshipment harbour. This initiative aligns with President Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s electoral promise to develop Laamu Atoll’s infrastructure.

Gaadhoo, Laamu Atoll | Photo: Visit Laamu / Facebook

Gaadhoo is a critical habitat for turtles and tortoises, known for its nesting and hatching sites. In response to potential environmental impacts, the project is purported to follow an environmentally friendly approach, preserving the island’s natural diversity. Plans include a dedicated conservation area and a rehabilitation centre, with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) providing technical expertise and recommendations to ensure the project aligns with environmental conservation standards.

This development comes amidst concerns regarding CAMC Engineering’s eligibility and integrity. The firm, previously blacklisted by major international financial institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for corruption, has a history of contentious projects across Asia and South America. Allegations of bribery and fraudulent activities have marred its international reputation, raising questions about the Maldivian government’s decision to award significant infrastructure projects to such a company.

The project’s environmental promises are particularly under scrutiny due to CAMCE’s past infractions in managing sensitive environments in other regions.