The Ennore Port Ltd. (EPL) will once again float global tenders soon, inviting parties to take part in the Request for Qualification (RFQ) process for creating a mega container terminal at Ennore.

The decision was taken at Monday’s board meeting, in which it was decided to seek re-bids from interested parties through a global tender over the next 10 to 15 days, after obtaining legal clarification on certain issues.

In October 2012, the lone bidder for the project, Bay of Bengal Terminal Consortium, withdrew from the project citing a delay in finalising funds, causing a temporary setback for EPL just like the Chennai Port Trust that was also facing problem on mega container terminal front.

To make the project attractive and viable, EPL invited expression of interests (EoIs) from companies, which would be interested in taking it up on a public-private-partnership mode. Based on their feedback, some parameters have been changed.

“About 11 firms took part in the EoI process. They, along with others, can take part in the RFQ. Later, the qualified bidders will be asked to submit Request for Proposal. We have made some material changes in the project with regard to quay length, capacity and cost to make it attractive. The project would be awarded by December,” said a top official.

EPL mega container terminal will be constructed in two phases on build, operate and transfer model involving public-private partnership for a concession period of 30 years. The first phase costing over Rs.1,270 crore will have a capacity to handle 1.4 million tonnes of twenty-foot equivalent units of containers, with a jetty length of over 730 meters.

Commenting on the two mega container terminals – one at Chennai and the other at Ennore – major port users wondered whether it would lead to building excess capacity as new projects were planned at Tuticorin, Visakhapatnam and Krishnapatnam too.

According to Chennai Customs House Agents, the country as a whole handled 10 million tonnes of twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers last year with 20 per cent growth over the corresponding period last year, whereas the port sector was contemplating of adding 14 million tonnes of TEUs over the next few years in the west coast alone.

A leading representative of Chambers of Commerce and Industry said, “The poor response to the bids for Chennai and Ennore mega container terminals indicates that the returns are not lucrative and the trade would therefore think twice before making a massive investment. The unfocussed division of business in the maritime sector is not good for the trade and industry.”

However, those in the Shipping Ministry were not willing to buy the argument that they were building excess capacity. “Think about the investment and growth pattern. We need to build projects now or we will lag behind just like the road sector.”