Contrasting responses marked the meetings convened by the Ennore Port and Chennai Port for choosing the companies that will build mega container terminals. It was a full house at Ennore Port, but a no-show for Chennai Port.

While the pre-bid meeting organised by Ennore Port Ltd (EPL) -- for seeking clarifications on several issues prior to submission of Request for Qualification (RFQ) process -- received a good response, with seven companies taking part in it, none of the short-listed companies failed to turn up at a meeting convened by Chennai Port Trust (ChPT) to resubmit their requests for proposals (RFP).

EPL is about 30 km away from ChPT. L&T Kattupalli Port, which is adjacent to Ennore Port, also has a container terminal with an annual capacity of 1.2 million tonnes.

Interestingly, in their maiden attempts both EPL and ChPT finalised a bidder for their projects. EPL terminated the contract as the private terminal operator could not get funds on time, while the terminal operator said it was unviable.

In the case of ChPT, in the first round Adani Port Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) emerged as the sole bidder and in the second round, Vadinar Oil Terminal and Essar Port and Terminal Ltd (VOTL) became the successful bidder. However, ChPT rejected their bids on the grounds that the royalty they offered was very low.

Having lost nearly 30 months, ChPT officials then called all the seven shortlisted players last month to submit their proposals. But, they failed to respond citing the delay in the launch of a vital project – the Chennai Port-Maduravoyal elevated four-lane link road.

Talking to The Hindu, an Ennore Port official said: “We had overwhelming response with more than 35 people from seven companies attending it. They sought clarifications on subjects such as formation of a joint venture company, inducting foreign firms as partners and obtaining auditors’ certificate. We have extended the last date for submission of RFQ to July 25.”

A top ChPT official attributed the absence of interest to the delay in laying road connectivity between Maduravoyal and Chennai Port. Another reason was the delay in completing the Ennore-Manali Road Improvement Project (EMRIP). “A board meeting will be held on Thursday to decide the next course of action, as we had invited all the short-listed players twice, but were unable to get any response. As compared to EPL, we are one step ahead and hope we can start the project on time.”

The ChPT has decided to approach the short-listed players once again to restructure the package in such a way to make it attractive for everyone to take part in it.

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