Bangalore: The board of Ennore Port Ltd is considering alternatives rather than scrapping a tender after receiving a single price bid for developing and operating a Rs1,407 crore facility that can load up to 1.5 million cargo containers a year at the port in Tamil Nadu, a government official said.

“We are not discharging the tender yet," said Rakesh Srivastava, a joint secretary in the Union shipping ministry. “The port management has been asked to take an internal decision on the future course of action and submit it to the board for discussion at the next meeting slated for 18 June."

Srivastava, who sits on the board of Ennore Port, added that the government was taken by “surprise at the extremely poor response" from bidders.

The port management may consider extending the time frame for receiving price bids from the six bidders that had been short-listed, said an executive at the port, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

Cargo handling: Ennore port was conceived as a satellite for Chennai port (above). The new facility at Ennore port will enable it to load up to 1.5 million cargo containers per year. Hemant Mishra/Mint

Those who backed out without submitting price bids include APM Terminals Management BV, the container terminal operating unit of Danish shipping and energy conglomerate AP Moller-Maersk Group; a consortium comprising Gammon Infrastructure Projects Ltd, Dragados SPL and Leighton Holdings Ltd; a consortium of Vedanta Resources Plc, Sterlite Industries India Ltd and Eurogate GmbH and Co.; Larsen and Toubro Ltd and John Keells Holdings Plc; and NYK Lines (India) Ltd with Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. Ltd.

The bidder sharing the highest percentage of annual revenue with the Union government-owned port would win the right to develop and operate the facility for 30 years, according to the government’s port privatization policy.

Over the past few years, seaborne containerized cargo volumes in India, the world’s second fastest growing major economy, has been expanding at an average of 16% a year. At this rate, container traffic is estimated to reach 21 million standard containers by 2014, up from the existing 9.1 million standard containers, according to the shipping ministry.

“The need for capacity augmentation in Indian ports for handling containerized cargo has thus assumed significance," India’s cabinet committee on infrastructure said while clearing the public-private partnership project at Ennore port last year.