Kolkata Port moves court for damages, HBT to follow

Last Updated: Tue, Dec 11, 2012 03:50 hrs

The Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) here approached the high court today, seeking a minimum compensation of Rs 233 crore from ABG Haldia Bulk Terminals (HBT) for the losses it suffered due to the firm’s pull-out from operations at the Haldia Dock Complex (HDC).

“We have sought Rs 233 crore. This includes the losses we are supposed to suffer during the entire period of 10 years. The court has postponed the hearing to Wednesday. Since the losses are higher than their equipment, we don’t want them to move those equipment,” a top KoPT official said, requesting anonymity.

HBT, a joint venture between ABG Infralogistics and French firm Louis Dreyfus Armateurs, had pulled out of its operations at berths 2 and 8 at HDC, breaking a 10-year-contract (2010-20) on October 31, citing law and order issues and alleging adverse vested interests from port authorities. “We are also likely to approach the court on Wednesday, highlighting our woes,” said Gurpreet Malhi, chief executive officer of HBT.

Recently, the French government had approached the Centre, seeking safe passage of HBT equipment worth Rs 140 crore out of Haldia.

The immediate trigger for HBT’s pull-out was the abduction of three of its officials on October 28. The abduction happened even after the firm paid Rs 17.45 lakh for the deployment of police personnel towards restoration of peace at Haldia Dock, based on a Calcutta High Court order. The situations turned violent at Haldia after HBT retrenched some workers on September 22.

Meanwhile, the deadline for submitting fresh tender for the berths has been extended to December 31. “The pre-bid meeting was successful, with nine companies participating in it. Now, we have extended the deadline to December 31,” the official said. Earlier, KoPT had initiated the process to blacklist HBT.

As a mid-term arrangement, KoPT had initiated talks with Tata Martrade International Logistics Ltd to use its mobile harbour crane at berth number 12 to berth number 13 also, where the cargos of HBT terminals will be diverted.

Earlier, KoPT chairman Manish Jain had indicated that KoPT is likely to suffer a financial loss of tentatively more than Rs 1,000 crore in the next seven years. HBT, too, was planning to approach the court, seeking a compensation of Rs 160 crore for the losses it suffered at Haldia.

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