The Republic of Maldives is an island country in South Asia, in the Indian Ocean. It is a small country spanning 90,000 square kilometres with a sparse population. Its capital is Male, also known as the King’s Island, as royal dynasties ruled from here, given its strategic location.
In the 1970s, Maldives was one of the poorest nations in the world. However, successful economic reforms changed the nation’s fate. The development of the tourism industry not only generated direct and indirect employment but impacted other sectors and also attracted international companies and private investors.
Hence, from the 1980s onwards, luxurious resorts and hotels came up. Tourism, instead of fishing, emerged as the dominant foreign exchange earner and transformed the Maldivian economy.
Maldives is also a famous cruise destination with many cruise terminals and cargo ports, supporting the archipelagic state’s shipping sector.
Maldives Port Limited is the sole authority regarding port-related business in the nation, which manages the main port, the Male Commercial Harbour and other regional ports.
Mentioned below are the principal cargo ports of Maldives.
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Male Commercial Harbour
MCH is the primary shipment facility in the Maldives. It serves as a key maritime gateway into the island nation. The port lies at the northwestern end of the island of Male, the country’s capital.
Approximately 500 vessels, 830,876 tonnes of cargo and 20,250TEU are handled annually. Daily, the port handles at least 2500 tonnes of cargo.
It comprises an Inner Harbour frequented by pleasure crafts, fishing and coastal vessels and an Outer Harbor for large ships. The New Harbour Area lies northwest of Male. It has a northern pier with an LOA of 150 metres and a draught of 10 metres. The pier is solely used by foreign cargo ships. It also has a marina for cruise ships. The average turnaround time for cargo ships at the port is 88 hours.
The port is easily accessible except during heavy rains during the southwest monsoon. The best entrance is the Bodukalhi passage and the Giraavaru channel from the east. Passenger’s vessels are handled at the anchorage. The port does not have facilities for RORO.
The Tanker terminal lies at Funadhoo and Thilafushi Island. It has berths which can accommodate vessels with a displacement of 15 thousand tonnes and an 8 m draft. Tankers are handled at the anchorage area, and ship-to-ship transfers are conducted for larger ships.
The Liquified Petroleum Gas Terminal is also at the Thilafushi island, including two other terminals, the STO PLC and Vila Gas facilities. Vessels measuring less than 135 metres lengthwise with a maximum draft of 8 metres can be accommodated at the berths of these terminals.
The port has general cargo and container berths. Magathufaalan berth is 101.3 metres long and has a water draught of 10.2 m, accommodating ships weighing 6000 gross tonnes.
Another quay measures 102 metres lengthwise with a depth of 10 metres. It also has a barge quay on the eastern and western ends of the harbour, spanning 75 metres with a 6.5 m water depth.
The port has an open storage covering 21,700 square metres and a covered warehouse of 2900 m2. It has 84 reefer points, and the port handles all cargo except dry bulk, LPG and gases.
Port Equipment includes 11 mobile cranes with varying capacities, 22 forklifts, three container reach stackers, three container barge handlers, five trailers and four tractors.
Pilotage is mandatory for international vessels weighing above 100 gross tonnes. Also, ships are prohibited from releasing dirty ballast water and slop near the harbour.
Hulhumale international terminal
The Hulhumale terminal became operational in 2013. It contains international and domestic terminal facilities owned and managed by the Port Authority of Maldives. It was a strategic venture of the government and had highly-equipped facilities compliant with the ISPS standards.
The terminal is essential in ensuring that cargo transfers are smooth and swift, preventing container and vessel congestion at the commercial harbour of Male. It also supports other economic ventures and urban development projects on Hulhumale island.
It can easily store up to 500 TEUs in an open storage area and has two covered warehouses. The port also has five reefer points for perishable items. It is also the primary hub for handling and keeping perishable goods, especially fruits and vegetables.
The berths measure 180 metres, and the terminal equipment is well-maintained to assure cargo and passenger safety. Customers can rent vehicles from the port and get express or re-shifting services.
In March 2022, the port authority and the Housing Development Corporation signed an agreement to expand the container yard of the terminal in Hulhumale city.
According to authorities, the expansion would better operational efficiency. MPL would also rent nearby land to keep empty containers, allowing the port to accommodate 2000 containers in an area spanning 120,000 square feet.
This would solve the problem of the Male harbour, which has had a space crunch for storing empty containers. This would mitigate the issue and aid in streamlining the operations of the Male and the Hulhumale ports.
Hithadhoo Regional Port
This port is situated in Addu Atoll and became operational in 2009. Since then, it has undergone many upgrades. Hithadhoo is the second port developed by the port authority and is entirely owned by a public company, Hithadhoo Port Limited (HPL).
It acts as the major distribution centre of the southern region for containerised cargo and conventional cargo. It is also well-equipped with port facilities for handling commercial cargo and providing storage-related services for local businesses and other regional industries.
HPL aims to ease logistics and provide seamless services to its customers. Hence a 30 per cent tariff concession is given on all the imported items cleared from HPL to encourage processing cargo through the Hithadhoo regional port.
It drastically reduces the cost of cargo which passes through the port and enables regional businesses to ship their products closer to the market.
There is a 5400 square metre stacking capacity and a built-in area of 150 metres. The port has a 1725 m2 warehouse capacity and offers container handling, stripping, stuffing, and warehousing services.
It also provides free storage for cargo for up to ten working days to benefit its loyal customers and reduce their warehousing costs.
The port expansion project is set to begin in November 2022. It includes dredging 160,000 square kilometres of area and reclaiming 8.4 hectares. Also, two quay walls would be built.
The first would measure 200 metres lengthwise and 80 metres breadthwise. The second one would be 165 metres long and 60 metres wide. Additionally, a 430 m long breakwater will also be constructed.
Kulhudhufushi Regional Port
It spans 11,350 square metres and has a 200 m-long berth. It began operations in 2005 and is situated on Kulhudhufushi Island, the heart of the north. The island is famous for its lush mangroves, after which it is named.
It is the economic centre of the northern region and serves as a maritime hub, managing national and inter-island trade and distribution activities.
KPL is essential in supporting goods and merchant trade transportation from the central capital, Male, to the northern area.
Plans are underway to develop the port for receiving cargo directly from India through the Cochin ferry route. It will offer direct access to the new markets in India for perishable goods and other consumer items, which would support the island communities and provide benefits to the industrial sector of Maldives.
Customers can rent port equipment and are given free warehousing services for ten working days, including a tariff concession on all imported goods. It has recently started repair and maintenance services for local speedboats and is also developing related services.
Male North Harbour
The MNH is a local harbour owned by the city council of Malay and operated by the Port Authority. It was opened in 2011.
It is a domestic pier for ships carrying cargo and passengers from the atolls. The quay can handle more than 35 ships at once and is operational day and night. It also provides basic amenities at the most affordable rates. There is a prayer room, bathrooms, seating areas, and guest restrooms.
The harbour has four commercial outlets where products are available wholesale and retail for guests. It also has two warehouses offering storage facilities and a small canteen area.
It operates mainly for locals and is being gradually developed to meet the requirements of the inhabitants. The present-day facility offers facilities to meet the needs of traders, merchants and passengers.
Male South-West Harbour
MSWH, or the T-jetty, is a harbour in the southwestern end of Male. It has been managed and operated by Maldives Port Limited since 2015, which developed and upgraded the harbour.
It now has all the necessities for inhabitants needing harbour services. These developments comprise readily available freshwater and electricity supply for vessels and a waiting room. It also has the required safety and security measures for protecting cargo vessels.
It is one of the most important gateways for domestic cargo, construction materials and perishable goods. It provides temporary storage facilities and handling equipment on rent.
The port serves as a primary logistics and distribution centre for cargo clearance from the commercial harbour of Male. The jetty also accommodates enormous ships and sand mining vessels and is a permanent parking area for many fueling vehicles. It provides public services like gas, water and STO food supply.
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Zahra is an alumna of Miranda House, University of Delhi. She is an avid writer, possessing immaculate research and editing skills. Author of several academic papers, she has also worked as a freelance writer, producing many technical, creative and marketing pieces. A true aesthete at heart, she loves books a little more than anything else.