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Three bids for Haldia berth

Calcutta, Nov. 10: Calcutta Port Trust’s move to make up for the termination of contract by Haldia Bulk Terminals (HBT) has gathered momentum, with three firms putting in bids to install mobile harbour cranes in a berth at Haldia.

International Seaports Haldia Private Ltd, a firm with close links to Ripley which is owned by the family of a former Trinamul MP; Tata firm TM International Logistic Ltd, and a private port operator from south India, Seapol, have put in bids for a 10-year contract.

Amal Dutta, manager (administration) of Haldia Dock Complex, said the port had received both the technical and price bids for the berth. Once the applicants pass the technical criteria, the price bids will be opened, he added.

“We want to award the contract as soon as possible,” Dutta said.

The chosen operator will be asked to bring two mobile cranes within six month of signing the contract.

The port has fixed a ceiling price of Rs 52 per tonne to carry out mobile harbour crane operations, which involves unloading bulk cargo like coal and iron ore from ships. The bidder who offers to work at the lowest rate will be chosen.

The scope of work at the berth — 4B — is, however, revenue inefficient for the port trust, which would miss out on a substantial chunk of money. The port used to earn Rs 226 from every tonne when HBT handled operations at berths 2 and 8, managing the entire gamut of cargo handling from ship to shore to wagon.

According to the arrangement proposed at 4B, the port can at the most hope to earn Rs 121 per tonne, which includes crane charge of Rs 52 per tonne, wharfage (the charge for using the wharf) and onboard handling charges. Shore operations, under complete control of firms like Ripley, will remain so in 4B.

So far, the port management has avoided a direct explanation on why the port decided to choose a business model through which it would earn far less than what it could.

The 4B model will be beneficial to manual cargo handlers like Ripley.

HBT, which terminated its contract for mechanised cargo handling after labour unrest laced with political overtones, had also blamed Ripley for the Haldia mess that followed the retrenchment of 275 workers in September.

The company retrenched its remaining 348 workers on November 3, saying it had been left with no option.