Calcutta, Dec. 13: Calcutta High Court today passed an order allowing private port operator Haldia Bulk Terminals (HBT) to remove its machinery from the two berths it used to run at Haldia port.
Justice Sanjib Banerjee of the court also appointed two special officers and directed them to ensure that the machinery is removed in a peaceful manner.
“HBT will have to remove its six giant-sized cranes within six weeks of passing the order. Other equipment will have to be removed in two weeks. The special officers will take the assistance of East Midnapore police, if necessary, so that the removal process is completed in a peaceful manner,” the order said.
The judge directed the East Midnapore superintendent of police to provide all assistance to the special officers.
“The special officers will keep vigil up to 50km from the port and HBT will take the responsibility of taking the equipment after 50km,” the order said.
Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) had moved the high court seeking an order restraining HBT from taking away its machinery before the issue of compensation was settled. CPT wants compensation from HBT for allegedly flouting the agreement and pulling out of the port.
HBT termed the verdict a “victory”.
“Today’s verdictů is a victory for us against the injudicious and continuous arm-twisting by CPT. While all along, the actions of CPT seemed to be in the interest of precipitating our exit, CPT did not even deter from making attempts to make our exit, obstacle-ridden and difficult,” a statement said.
“This would bring a sad close to HBT’s attempt to bring about a radical change at HDC (Haldia dock complex), wherein HBT had been able to raise productivity levels to three times of what exists at other berths,” it added.
HBT said the “total non-cooperation” of CPT “at the highest levels” and the port authority’s “actions in collusion with vested interests operating in HDC” made it “impossible to operate”.
CPT sources said the port would move the high court’s division bench. It is likely to seek a restraining order on the sale and transfer of the equipment.
“We (port) have not terminated the contract. They (HBT) have abandoned it. If the company wants to work, it still can. However, if it does not, the port reserves the right to claim compensation through arbitration. The company should not be allowed to sell or transfer the equipment since it is the only asset it has. If HBT is allowed to sell the equipment, recovery of compensation would be difficult,” a CPT official said.