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Chinese builders rush to finish airport expansion, upgrade project in Maldives

China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-25 10:15
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MALE — As planes from around the world swept into Velana International Airport in the Maldives, workers from Beijing Urban Construction Group were busy decorating the new VIP terminal with wood veneers during the May Day holiday to ensure the airport project is delivered on time.

This was the sixth May Day that Sun Luzhen, executive project manager of BUCG's Velana International Airport expansion and upgrading project, has spent in Male, the capital city of the Maldives.

He remembered his arrival in Male years ago when people often said the airport was nothing like an international tourist resort; people had to queue for hours for check-in.

Change was in the air in 2014, when China and the Maldives signed an agreement on the expansion and upgrading of the airport.

The project faced multiple challenges from the beginning. Zhao Guangyong from BUCG said almost all construction materials and equipment had to be imported, and procurement and transportation often took a long time.

"When we first discussed the plan together, we had differences in design concept and culture between the two countries," Zhao said.

As the two sides worked together on the construction of a new office building and a new runway, their trust deepened. Maldives Airports Company Limited has since signed new agreements with BUCG.

Now the airport has a wider apron, modernized functions and more supporting facilities, such as fire stations and fuel depots. The newly built runway can handle the takeoff and landing of the largest aircraft in the world.

In the past 10 years, the airport has renovated and expanded its apron to approximately 250,000 square meters and a new reclamation area to about 750,000 square meters, significantly increasing passenger capacity.

"BUCG symbolizes quality, timeliness and professionalism. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, all the projects were delivered on schedule," said MACL Chief Development Officer Mohamed Solah.

"Whenever we encounter difficulties, BUCG is always there to help," Solah said.

When the airport had a temporary power failure a few days ago, Solah said, they made an emergency call to BUCG. "Although handling such an emergency was not in the contract, BUCG sent 50 employees to help us with repairs and restored the power supply immediately," he said.

With the completion and delivery of each project, the friendship between BUCG and MACL has also deepened.

Ibrahim Shareef Mohamed, CEO and managing director of MACL, said he was deeply impressed by the fact that BUCG reasonably adjusted construction schedules and allocated working hours during important local religious festivals.

"During Ramadan, they never eat or drink in front of us. We are deeply moved by their sincerity and respect for our culture. We get along very well and I often take my family to taste their Chinese cuisine," he said.

Sukey Lyu, a BUCG employee who married a Maldivian seven years ago, said Maldivians have long dreamed about a sea-crossing bridge and a modern airport.

"They often say that if a project is given to China, they will never let you down."


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