Private operator HBT to move court against Kolkata Port Trust

Last Updated: Mon, Oct 15, 2012 16:40 hrs

Kolkata, Oct 15 (IANS) Haldia Bulk Terminal (HBT), a private port equipment operator at the labour unrest-hit Haldia Dock Complex, is planning to move the Calcutta High Court Tuesday against the Kolkata Port Trust for "failing to provide safe environment" for its operations.

"Yes, we are planning to move the Calcutta High Court tomorrow (Tuesday) as both the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) and the state government are not providing us with a safe environment for operating at berth 2 and 8," Haldia Bulk Terminal Pvt. Ltd. (HBT) CEO Gurpreet Malhi told IANS.

The two berths at Haldia were operated by HBT, a joint venture between Mumbai-based ABG and French firm LDA.

Blaming the deteriorating law and order situation at the dock, HBT has suspended operations at the two berths for over a fortnight now.

KoPT's board of trustees met last Friday and gave HBT a Oct 19 deadline to restart operations.

Meanwhile, a decision of the KoPT to appoint a handling operator to operate at the two berths, where about one lakh tonnes of cargo has been stationed due to the stalemate, has also sparked off controversy.

According to the port sources, the board of trustees Oct 12 "cleared and approved" the tender, floated the previous day, for clearing the stored cargo at the two berths.

Dubbing the tender as "illegal", Malhi said: "The tender was awarded at a much higher price than our quoted price."

Damodar Naik, manager, shipping at the Haldia Dock Complex, however, refuted the allegations of HBT. "There is nothing illegal. It was within the contract."

"HBT is not performing its duty. Due to this, bulk cargoes such as non-coking coal, manganese and limestone were stored at the dock. We employed the firm as an emergency move to clear the cargoes as different industries express fear that their plants might have to be closed down due to the unavailability of the raw materials," Naik said.

"We want that HBT start operations by Oct 19."

According to a senior port official, the tender was awarded to J. M. Baxi & Co, the lowest bidder, at Rs.27 per tonne of cargo. The firm started operation at the berth 2 and 8 from Oct 13.

Haldia Dock Complex handles an average 14 million tonnes (mt) of dry bulk cargo annually, of which HBT handles 5 mt.

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