Calcutta, Oct. 12: Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) today asked Haldia Bulk Terminals (HBT) to resume work by October 19 at Haldia port or face termination of its contract.
But HBT said the situation was “not conducive” for work.
Sources said the CPT’s board of trustees, the port’s apex decision-making body, set the deadline in a letter to HBT. The private operator suspended cargo-handling operations last month after the retrenchment of 275 workers sparked unrest.
“The trustees decided to send a letter to HBT asking it to resume work by October 19 and seeking specific comments on the recommendations of a committee set up by CPT to resolve the impasse. If HBT fails to do so, it should be presumed that they are not interested in doing business at Haldia port and suitable steps will be taken according to Clause 7.12 (which deals with early termination of contract),” a CPT source said.
CPT chairman Manish Jain was not available for comment. HBT CEO Gurpreet Malhi said he was yet to receive any letter from the port. “We will reply suitably,” he said, adding that law and order in and outside the Haldia Dock Complex was “not conducive for resumption of work”.
If the deadlock is not broken, the matter may reach court, which can slow down cargo-handling and hit the reputation of the port and the state.
HBT invested Rs 140 crore to install six mobile cranes at two berths in Haldia in 2010. The company claims to have lost Rs 34 crore since then because of diminishing cargo and high overheads caused by excess manpower. HBT, however, improved port efficiency and reduced expenses of users.
CPT earns Rs 100 crore a year as fee from HBT. If the contract is terminated, the port’s earnings will come down drastically. In order to avert such a situation, the board of trustees has decided to collect fees from handling agents — those engaged in manual operations — on every tonne that they unload. The handling agents now pay only a bi-annual licence fee.
“We have to shore up revenues from other sources in case HBT’s contract is terminated,” a CPT official said. But HBT’s productivity is four times that of the handling agents and the port earns four times more from it.
The CPT official said mobile cranes could be installed in berths 4B, 9, 13 by calling tenders. HBT operates berths 2 and 8. The board has also approved an emergency tender process for evacuation of cargo from the HBT berths.