Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) has rebutted the allegation by Dhaandhoo MP Yaugoob Abdulla of imminent plans to handover the management of the new seaplane terminal in Velana International Airport (VIA) to seaplane operator Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA), describing it as “an individual's baseless allegation.”
Yaugoob, a member of the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, had made the allegation in a tweet on Wednesday.
“I have received information of imminent plans to hand over MACL’s seaplane terminal to TMA. I will not hesitate to make those accountable if it is handed over to TMA at loss to the State. The Public Accounts Committee will look into this and take action,” said Yaugoob.
MACL issued a rebuttal via its Twitter account on Thursday.
“It is sad when media speculate false and confusing news based on an individual's baseless allegation,” responded MACL.
It said that it’s stand regarding the subject remained the same as had been communicated through its press statement on December 31, which is to maintain management of the new seaplane terminal and the VVIP building, and to lease out space from the terminal to seaplane operators.
MACL said that while it had held talks with seaplane operators regarding lease arrangements, it hadn’t signed lease contracts with any operator, and had currently ceased all lease talks at instructions of relevant authorities.
It said that the USD 26 million four-story seaplane complex had been designed to accommodate multiple operators.
MACL is working on completing the new terminal and making it operational by May.
MACL said that making the new runway in VIA was of vital importance to the airport’s operations, but that the new runway couldn’t be made operational until the adjoining buildings, including the TMA facility, was vacated.
While buildings except for the TMA facility will be vacated within the next two months, the TMA facility cannot be vacated until the lease talks re-start and the TMA facility is relocated to the new terminal, said MACL.
Construction of the new seaplane terminal had been contracted to China’s Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) for USD 40 million.
The audit on the terminal found that keeping its management under State-owned Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) would result in a 300 percent boost in its profits, but that it the terminal were handed over to TMA, it would result in an annual loss of USD 41 million to MACL.
A case has been lodged with local corruption watchdog, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to order a halt to the handover of the management of the new seaplane terminal to TMA.
MACL’s Acting Managing Director, Moosa Solih previously told the press that the management of the seaplane terminal would remain under MACL, but that seaplane operation would not be relocated to the new terminal in a manner which resulted in losses to current seaplane operators.
He said that while the new seaplane terminal would be managed by MACL as soon as it was done, the company had no right to seize the terminals currently being used by TMA for its operations, and that the contract between MACL and TMA had yet to lapse.
Meanwhile, Economic Minister Fayyaz Ismail commented that MACL was capable of undertaking the management of the new seaplane terminal.
Maldives currently had three seaplane operators; TMA, Maldivian, and Manta Air. Local airline Flyme is also braced to launch seaplane operations soon.