The government has revealed a strategic initiative to relocate seaplane operations from Velana International Airport (VIA) to an alternative island within the Malé City region. However, a new location for the new seaplane terminal has not yet been confirmed, according to information obtained by Maldives Republic.

The relocation of the seaplane terminal is a crucial component of the VIA expansion plan, aiming to increase the airport’s capacity to cater for 25 million passengers annually—a substantial increase from the current capacity.

The announcement was made by President Mohamed Muizzu on Thursday evening, revealing that the seaplane operations currently conducted at VIA will be moved to Furanafushi Island, North Malé Atoll. The island presently houses the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Spa.

The proposed relocation is a pivotal component of the government’s 20-year development master plan and will necessitate the construction of a state-of-the-art seaplane terminal and associated facilities at the new location. However, the government has yet to release any information regarding discussions with Sheraton Maldives or the leaseholder of Furanafushi Island pertaining to this plan.

The ‘Noovilu Seaplane Terminal’, acclaimed as the world’s largest seaplane terminal, became operational on 6 October 2022. The four-story, 28,000-square-metre terminal is equipped with spacious lounges, boarding gates, and office and operational spaces. It also boasts a floating dock that can accommodate over 55 seaplanes.

In an interview with the Maldives Republic, Shamman Shakir, the Corporate Communications Manager at MACL, stated that the final location for the new seaplane terminal has yet to be determined.

“A conclusive decision regarding the new location for the seaplane terminal is pending. As part of the concept announced by President [Muizzu], seaplane operations will be relocated. Consequently, the current [Noovilu Seaplane] terminal will be repurposed for alternate services,” he said.

As part of the government’s new VIA expansion plan, Muizzu stated that the new seaplane terminal, planned to be relocated to Furanafushi Island, will feature three water runways and will include facilities to accommodate five seaplane operators.

The initial phase of the VIA expansion project is slated to commence within the year, with the majority of the work anticipated to be completed within the administration’s five-year tenure. Significant developments are projected to be completed within the next decade.

While the government states that the new development phase will run concurrently with the ongoing expansion project, the objective is to increase the original capacity from seven million to an impressive 25 million passengers upon completion.