Maldivians are proud that the Maldives is spread across a strategic location in the Indian Ocean. The Northern tip of the Maldives faces the Eight Degree Channel which is the main shipping route for vessels from East Asia and Australia to the Suez
Canal or the Persian Gulf and vice versa. In the middle, Kardiva Channel (Kaashidhoo Kandu) is the route taken by vessels from Malacca Straits to East Africa. In the South, the Equatorial Channel is the main route taken by vessels from the Bay of Bengal to West Africa and the Americas. Our location in the Indian Ocean has a huge commercial potential which we haven’t taken advantage of until now.
However, British Forces in the Maldives in the 1950s knew the importance of Maldives’ location in the Indian ocean. Atolls that are key locations for their surface and sub-surface operations across Maldives were identified and extensive surveys were carried out. For those atolls, UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) had created large-scale charts based on the data collected from year 1923 onwards. Atolls
selected by British and Surveyed by them include:
- Ihavandhippolhu Atoll- North Maldives
- Goidhoo Atoll – Kardiva Channel
- Greater Male Area – Waterways near Capital City.
- Addu Atoll – South Maldives.
Luckily for those atolls and their inhabitants, the British had left them something valuable that could be turned into a revenue stream. These large-scale charts are still being published by the UKHO and all relevant information on those atolls are still available in the UKHO Publications.
A navigator who plans to travel from one point to another, always checks UKHO charts, publications, and other relevant publications to collect information and plan their passage.
Ships, yachts or any other type of vessel crossing or passing the Maldives will make sure that relevant large-scale charts and publications are onboard and referred to during the passage. Vessels passing North Maldives will have Ihavandhippolhu Chart with them and they may decide to call on one of the Islands recommended by the publications.
Most of us in the Maldives assume that the yachts that call on Uligamu came there by chance or because it’s among the northernmost islands of Maldives. However,
it is not the case. Uligamu is like any other island in Bodu Thiladhunmathi . They simply call on Uligamu because the area is covered by a large-scale chart and the Uligamu Anchorage is described in The British UKHO publication as a safe Anchorage. The publication (NP38) gives further details, for example, previous experiences at the anchorage and how to approach this anchorage. Hence, the vessels travelling find it easy, convenient and safe to call on Uligamu rather than any other island in the north part of the Maldives. Now you can thank the British for bringing those ships and yachts to Uligamu.
Marine Traffic Across Nothern Maldives
The importance of a Hydrographic office to a maritime nation is clearly proven with the fact that Uligamu has come to be a popular destination for yachts. However, until now, administrative governments did not realise the need to have a Hydrographic department or office in the country and its potential benefits for the Maldives as a maritime nation. Having large-scale charts and information
on main local islands in each atoll will attract yachts to those islands. For example,
If the island of Kelaa had a similar chart and similar information published, yachts will start flowing to Kelaa, in the same way they reach Uligam.
There’s no deeper mystery to why yachts call on Uligamu and not other islands. It’s because somebody, someday in the past had done something right for the island and did not do the same for other main islands in the area.
It is commendable that President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih constituted the Maldives
Hydrographic Service on the 19th of January 2022. The value of hydrography to the
maritime sector is immeasurable, and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s decision
to establish the Maldives Hydrographic Service will undoubtedly be beneficial to the
Maldives’ maritime economy.