Interview with Ali Hashim, Deputy, CEO, Maldives Ports Limited (MPL)

Interview with Ali Hashim, Deputy, CEO, Maldives Ports Limited (MPL)


What are MPL’s recent milestones and the current priorities of the new management?

We began operations in 1986 as a small operator managing cargo volumes that were much smaller than they are now.  The company has since grown but our limited land capacity has become a bottleneck over the past 30 years. There have been a lot of developments and the government are moving quickly to improve our operations and capacity.

Our current priority is to relocate all port operations from Malé to Thilafushi, an island situated 6 kilometers west of Malé. The land has already been allocated by the government and we will hopefully sign the agreement by next month, which should allow us to shift the port in three years. Our current location will then become a growth terminal for MPL to diversify and grow further.


What ports are currently managed by MPL and how do they work together to support trade and maritime traffic in the Maldives?

Male’ Commercial Harbor is an international port which receives and distributes goods locally to other major domestic ports and harbors, also managed by us. The Maldives is made up of 1192 individual islands, so most of our cargo is transported by sea from the main harbor to all parts of the country. The Maldives relies heavily on imported goods, which means cargo volumes are high. Furthermore, the local tourism industry also depends on us being able to transport food and supplies to hotels that are dotted around the archipelago.

For this reason, local ports are very important for maintaining supply lines to communities and hotels and our work is pivotal to the survival of the country and its economy.


How will the new port enhance the country’s maritime capacities, and what does MPL need to do to ensure the new Gulhi Falhu port is open by 2026?

Building the new port is a 300-million-dollar project which has been in the pipeline for the past 20 years, spanning several administrations, and was put on hold during the Covid-19 Pandemic. There was also a lot of debate about which island to choose before Thilafushi was finally agreed upon. All this meant that the land reclamation did not get underway until last year. Now there are initiatives to relocate the current fishing port and provide housing for local residents.

The financing will come from MPL and we will hold tenders to contract out the work, following the requisite feasibility studies. We are looking for international investors to help us finally realize this project, after two decades of planning.


How is the new management of MPL planning to overcome past challenges and better support its customers?

We are at an important point in our history and our strategy is to have better, more accountable, more transparent governance. Our ports have always relied on cargo but we are branching out into the transshipment business. This will open doors to many countries around the world, not just our neighbors and traditional trading partners. And there will be opportunities for old and new partners to become investors in our port and its new areas of operation.

At management level, we are reorganizing our corporate portfolio. Our port is an instrument of public policy. Under our new organization, we will be more efficient and some of our assets will be managed under concession, so that the costs will not have to be borne by the general public and taxpayers.


How is MPL working with relevant ministries to meet the government’s target of reducing the country’s carbon emissions by 26% by 2030? 

We are in the process of building our solar energy capacity, not just to improve sustainability but also to save money on electricity generation.  Moreover, we aspire to utilize renewable energy sources to the greatest extent possible for our new port. By incorporating advanced infrastructure during the construction phase, we are creating an opportunity to integrate these sustainable practices into our upcoming projects.

We aim to develop a greener port and attract partners committed to sustainability. There is commercial value in this approach, as many businesses seek carbon-neutral partners. Our progress toward a sustainable port relies on attracting investment, especially from countries like the US.

One of our key projects in the near future is going to be a port in the north of Maldives, where we are going to build a transshipment hub, which will become part of the global supply chain and a link between east and west. It is one of the busiest cargo shipping routes in the world and 80% of the oil being exported to East Asia passes through there. We hope that this new port will help us leverage our geographical location and enable us to be a competitive player in the maritime sector, along with India and Sri Lanka, for a share of this trade.


What new technologies are being used at MPL’s ports, and what role do you see digitalization playing in your operations in the future?

Our whole company is paperless and we have put a lot of effort into digitalization. All our customer services and communications with shipping agents are done online. We implemented enterprise resource planning (ERP) two years ago and are in the process of implementing a new statistics model. The next step is going to be investing in big data and AI.


As Deputy CEO, what is your background, what are your priorities, and where would you like to see MPL in the next couple of years?

I have been working in shipping, aviation, and ports across Asia for a long time, which has given me a solid understanding of how ports and the maritime sector work. The government has now assigned me to work here, which is a great honor. To facilitate significant changes at MPL, we need to diversify our activities and restructure the company, collaborating closely with the government of the Maldives. Our staff are dedicated and are working hard all round the clock to accommodate these changes. We have grand plans for our company and our country, and we are excited to be entering a transformational phase in our history.


What is your final message to the readers of USA TODAY?

We would like to see more economic engagement between the Maldives and the international community, particularly the US and Europe, as well as China and India. We invite them to come and visit us to see for themselves what the Maldives has to offer.