The government has announced the initiation of bunkering services in Ihavandhippolhu, Haa Alifu Atoll, slated to commence by the end of July. This development, part of the ambitious Maldives Economic Gateway project, aims to significantly bolster the nation’s economic diversification and international trade prospects.

Economic Development and Trade Minister Mohamed Saeed revealed the plans during a meeting with residents of Hoarafushi, Haa Alifu Atoll, coinciding with President Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s tour of four northern atolls. Saeed confirmed that negotiations are underway with a leading global company to operationalise the bunkering facility, expecting to finalise an agreement shortly.

“This initiative, God willing, will see one of the world’s top ten companies joining us in the next few weeks to kickstart the bunkering services project here,” Saeed stated. The move is anticipated to create numerous job opportunities, stimulate local business growth, and enhance the country’s foreign revenue streams.

The project’s foundation was laid by the previous government in August 2023 when the State Trading Organization (STO) signed an agreement with Qatar’s Urbacon Trading and Contracting (UTC) to develop a fuel storage and oil bunkering facility, along with establishing a national strategic oil reserve in Ihavandhippolhu. Initially, the memorandum of understanding between STO and UTC aimed to assess the feasibility of the project, which has now evolved into a concrete plan for implementation.

Additionally, Minister Saeed highlighted the inclusion of Hoarafushi and Ihavandhippolhu as critical assets within the newly established Maldives Industrial Development Freezone Company. 

The region is set for further development, including land reclamation efforts in Hoarafushi lagoon, with funding negotiations currently in progress with a European bank. A development bank is also expected to be established by year-end to support the project’s financial requirements.