MACL takes over reins at Male airport

BUS

Two years after it handed over the Male International Airport's operations to Indian infrastructure major GMR, the Maldives' state-run Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) was back at the helm on Saturday.

MACL took over operations from GMR, which was awarded a $511-million contract in 2010 by the previous Nasheed government to build and operate the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport for 25 years.

The Indian firm was unceremoniously ousted when the new Maldivian government abruptly terminated the contract on November 27 and was given time till December seven to hand over airport operations to MACL, taking India by surprise.

"The airport operations are now being handled by MACL. The handing over was very smooth and seamless," President Mohamed Waheed's Press Secretary Masood Imad said.

However, reports here suggest that GMR officials were not present at the "handing over" ceremony held late last night.

Imad said there is a three-week transition period during which GMR and MACL will work together. He also sought to allay any fears of loss of jobs or any vendetta against the employees. "All workers of the airport, who wish to stay back after GMR leaves, will be taken on board by MACL. This also includes Indian workers," Imad said.

Maldives' defence minister and acting transport minister Mohamed Nazim said at the ceremony that there would be major changes in MACL management. "I would like to say that we will reconstitute the management of MACL and further strengthen the company," he was quoted as saying by 'Haveeru' daily. He added, "We accept that GMR had worked towards the development of the airport. We thank GMR for that."

The Male airport venture has been the most profitable for GMR in its airports business segment. The company had so far invested about $250 million on managing and upgrading the facilities at the Male airport.

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