Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed has announced the impending resumption and launch of major international port projects in Ihavandhippolhu in Haa Alifu Atoll and Gaadhoo in Laamu atoll. 

These projects, initiated during former President Abdulla Yameen’s tenure and continued under President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, signal a significant step in enhancing the country’s strategic economic position in the Indian Ocean.

The Ihavandhippolhu project, situated in the northernmost atoll, is poised to exploit its strategic location on the main shipping lane connecting East and West. The project, previously known as “iHavan,” envisions the atoll as a crucial trading and business hub.

Previous governments, including that of former President Solih, have attempted to realise this vision, with recent efforts involving a bunkering project by the State Trading Organization (STO) and Qatar’s UrbaCon Trading & Contracting Company. This initiative, alongside plans for a national strategic petroleum reserve and comprehensive port services, aims to transform the atoll into a major economic centre.

In contrast, the Gaadhoo project involves developing a commercial port in an area previously known for its environmental significance, with rich marine biodiversity and turtle nesting grounds. The island’s inhabitants were relocated in 2016, paving the way for the development, which includes refuelling services for container ships and a resort. This project aligns with President Muizzu’s pledge to capitalise on the island’s strategic location in the Huvadhoo sea, frequented by a large number of cargo ships.

The economic potential of these projects is underscored by the strategic location of Ihavandhippolhu along the 7 to 8-degree channel, a critical route for international shipping liners. The Maldives’ ambition to develop this region into a comprehensive port city has involved engagement with international technical consultants to ensure meticulous planning and environmental sustainability.