By: Ibrahim Kashif Naseer
Maldives known as garlands of the Indian Ocean is made up of several archipelagoes that consist of more than 1200 islands. Only two percent of the whole country is land the rest of the 98 percent is covered by the sea.
Since its independence from the British colonial rule over the last four decades Maldives has seen a dramatic and steady development in its transportation infrastructure. Most notably its aviation transportation has developed at a remarkable speed despite setbacks over the last decade.
The first airport in Maldives was inaugurated in April 12 1966. Since then, every effort has been made to upgrade the airport to today's standards. Today known as Male’ international airport it acts as a gate way into Maldives. Thousands of tourists travel through and out of the country each year. Since it first came into service the Male’ international airport has undergone three major upgrading projects.
With the introduction and expansion of tourism the need for air transport became vital especially with the absence of a reliable public transportation system. With the introduction of tourism three decades ago, the need for air transport became vital, especially with the absence of a reliable public transportation system. The aviation infrastructure has expanded today. Currently Maldives operates five airports two of which are recognized by the International civil aviation organization as international airports.
A former British air base nicknamed by them as the “Coral Command” has recently been transformed to an international airport known today as “Gan international airport”. Several other airports are soon to undergo up grading projects that would hopefully bring them up to day standards.
Maldives has operated its own flag carrier airlines since the early 1970’s. The national flag carrier “Air Maldives” traveled to 10 destinations worldwide but during the Asian financial crisis of the 1990’s the airlines announced a sudden bankruptcy and was dissolved. Despite this tragic set back the aviation sector has seen a recovery over the last decade. When “Air Maldives” was dissolved it had a fleet of five air craft’s consisting of three airbus A-310’s and two Donier Do 228 aircrafts used to provide regional services.
Since then a new player has come into service and has been expanding its services although a full recovery has not been yet achieved. The “Maldivian” is today the national airlines of the Maldives. It has a fleet of five aircrafts that consists of four bombardier Q series aircrafts and a Dornier 228. Since its formation after the fatal bankruptcy of the air Maldives until recently the Maldivian locally known as island aviation was providing air services inside the Maldives, but today it operates flights to neighboring countries like Sri Lanka and India.
Maldives has the largest fleet of seaplanes in the world. These planes act as a transportation system between the Male’ international airport and the tourist resorts. These planes are easy to operate in a country where 98% of the territory is water. Maldivian air taxi is the main provider of the sea plane services in the Maldives and has a fleet of more than 22 sea planes.
Three domestic airports are also located in the mid south and north of the island chains. These airports are being developed in an attempt to decentralize the country. All major shipments of all commodities that are airlifted into the country come through the Male' International Airport.
The domestic airports have proven beneficial to a lot of citizens. They are situated in the islands of Hanimaadhoo, Kaadehdhoo and Kahdhoo. The two international airports also provide domestic flights around the country which sums up the total number of domestic airports in the country to five.
The provision of better aviation in the country would surely boost up the pace of development. However, the growth of air transport would only benefit along with a reasonably developed sea transportation network. As the Maldives comprise a vast area of ocean with isolated islands, travelling via sea is vital for the transportation link in the country to be efficient.