The contractor of the landmark over-water bridge, being developed between capital Male and airport island Hulhule, has long proclaimed that piling the seven main pillars of the structure would be the most challenging stage of the project, after which the rest of the work would be as simple as “drinking a glass of water.” Two months after the piling stage was completed, CCCC Second Harbour Engineering Company Ltd of China delivered good on their claim as they invited journalists and reporters to oversee the progress of the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge.
The last time journalists received the opportunity to visit the site of the largest development project in the Maldives was in October 2016. At the time, work had just commenced to pile the main pillars of the bridge and, observed from the site and southeast coast of capital Male, it did not appear that the work was proceeding particularly fast.
In fact, some criticism had also arisen from the public alleging that the project had come to a halt. The reason for these allegations was that, back then, no one understood the sheer challenge of piling the pillars, where 35 piles in seven pillars had to be driven close to 100 metres deep into the seabed; especially along the spots where the ocean currents were strongest.
Three months on, the scene that greeted journalists at the project site this Monday afternoon was completely different. Following the pile foundation, the apparent idleness previously perceived at the site has disappeared, replaced with the hectic sight of busy workers and diligent on-site staff preparing concrete for reinforcement. The concrete is prepared in two large machines and transported via vehicles.
The platforms at both ends of the bridge have also been connected with a temporary over-water crossing to allow workers to walk from Male to Hulhule, whereas previously, the units working on the Hulhule platform had to take ferries back and forth to the airport island. This is another factor that has upped the speed of development, as it eradicates the time spent on security clearance that entails ferry rides to Hulhule.
Shedding light on the project’s development, Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muizzu announced that concrete reinforcement of 22 out of the 35 piles in the main bridge have been completed. Meanwhile, 40 of the 88 piles in the approach bridge have also been reinforced.
Reiterating that bridge development is progressing ahead of schedule, the minister estimated that concrete reinforcement of all the piles and pillars will be completed by the end of May this year.
“Meaning that concrete [reinforcement] of all the pillars of the approach bridge and main bridge will be done by the end of May. That is according to the schedule, but we’re looking to complete it one month in advance,” Minister Muizzu told reporters.
Once concrete reinforcement of the pillars is completed, the next step would be placement of the bridge’s cap in the shape of a “V”. According to Minister Muizzu, cap placement is expected to finish in August this year, which would bring all the work on the pillars to a close.
Meanwhile, the super structure of the bridge is being developed in China, which the minister assured is underway post-haste.
The minister went on to explain that the ocean currents at some points along the bridge structure had compelled them to adapt certain aspects of the pile foundation differently from prior researches. Some of these changes included driving certain pillars deeper into the seabed than the depth previously projected.
“Some of the piles also had to be driven to depths shallower [than estimated]. But there weren’t many changes overall. The pillars embedded deepest are driven to a depth of 100 metres in the seabed. Previously, they were [projected to be driven to] a depth of 80 metres. The average depth of the pillars is between 60-80 metres.”
The driving force behind the swift speed of the bridge’s progress is the devotion of CCCC Second Harbour Engineering's staff to this hefty project. The scene all around as reporters and journalists were escorted along the bridge was that of workers wholly engaged in their given tasks, while the bridge site also flashes its workforce's schedule in plain sight for all to see.
The Second Harbour Engineering Company is a subsidiary of Chinese Communications Construction Company (CCCC). While renowned for the successful completion of mega projects including several bridges in various countries, this landmark bridge in the Maldives is of a unique and challenging nature to the company. Nonetheless, the contractor proclaims that the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge is the tangible link of the strong relations between the two Asian allies and, thus, its progress will be carried on with diligence and integrity. The latest prospect that greeted reporters and journalists on site is testimony to a promise kept.