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-size 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 in performing their jobs.
“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.
The CPT had also sought an order appointing a special officer to take custody of HBT’s machinery.
Jayanta Mitra, the lawyer for CPT, told the court that his client had been suffering huge losses because of the now-defunct equipment that hindered work at the berths.
Jishnu Saha, who appeared for HBT, had said his client had incurred a loss of Rs 138 crore as the port authorities failed to provide security to its workers.
Saha had added his client would also demand compensation. HBT had on October 31 announced its exit from the port citing unsafe work condition.
Trouble started after HBT, a joint venture between ABG and LDA of France, had sacked 275 workers in October. HBT had cited a bloated workforce maintained because of alleged political arm-twisting and decreasing profit margins for sacking the workers.
The sacked workers, with the alleged backing if Trinamul trade union leaders, launched an agitation and stopped loading and unloading work at berths 2 and 8, which HBT used to handle.
A few days later, three HBT officials were allegedly dragged out of a Haldia flat at gunpoint, driven to the nearest railway station and put on the first train to Calcutta with the warning never to return.