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Belfast-based Lagan International Ltd has won a major contract to expand and upgrade the Maldives” second largest airport to international standards with backing from the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD), the UK’s official export credit agency.

ECGD has provided an export credit guarantee on a £7mn loan from HSBC Bank plc to provide finance towards the £12mn contract which has been awarded to the UK exporter to redevelop Gan International Airport.

The project will enable Boeing 767 aircraft to land directly at the airport – rather than at Male International Airport – under the Maldives government’s plan to boost the nation’s tourism and GDP.

Gan International Airport currently handles 1.1mn passengers a year but this figure is projected to increase to 1.6mn by 2010.

The new look airport on the island of Gan will provide a major economic and tourism boost to the Maldives by creating a second tourist hub in addition to the capital city of Male.

Furthermore, local employment opportunities are also expected to benefit from the redevelopment of the airport, which is in one of the remotest parts of the country.

The airport contract includes the construction of a new terminal building, refurbishment of the control tower, redevelopment of aircraft taxiways and aprons, as well as new runway lighting and security equipment. Fire fighting and rescue equipment will also be supplied to the airport under the contract, which is scheduled for completion at the end of 2004.

Gerry Cawley, PFI/PPP Director at Lagan, says: “ECGD’s involvement was instrumental in helping Lagan to secure this contract in what is a highly competitive market. We are pleased with the role played by both ECGD and HSBC in helping us secure such an important contract for our workforce.”

About 30% of the contract will be procured in the Maldives, mainly through employing the local workforce.

The upgrade work at Gan International Airport is being managed by the Maldives Airport Company Ltd – a government-owned company established to manage and operate all the country’s airports.