Kolkata: The Calcutta high court on Thursday allowed cargo handling company Haldia Bulk Terminals (HBT) to remove its machinery and equipment from the Haldia Dock complex of the Kolkata Port Trust.

Justice Sanjib Banerjee appointed two special officers to oversee the removal of machinery of HBT, which handled dry bulk cargo at berths two and eight at Haldia Dock.

Justice Banerjee directed that HBT would have to remove the cranes within six weeks and other machinery, including dumpers and vehicles within two weeks. Kolkata Port Trust had moved the high court seeking permission to hold on to the machinery and equipment of HBT till the arbitration process on compensation for loss of its business and breach of contract was completed. It claimed that stoppage of cargo handling operations by HBT had led to huge financial losses for Kolkata Port Trust and that it had committed breach of contract by doing so.

HBT in turn moved the court seeking permission to remove its machinery from the two berths, claiming that Kolkata Port Trust move to hold on to its machinery was illegal and arbitrary. It claimed before the court that it could not be blamed for breach of contractual obligations as law and order situation was not conducive for it to operate there and that it was forced to leave.

Cargo handling company HBT, jointly promoted by ABG group of India and French logistics company LDA, had on 31 October announced its immediate exit from Haldia citing unsafe work conditions. Problems were brewing at the complex, run by Kolkata Port Trust, after HBT sacked 275 employees, on the ground that they were surplus.

HBT had moved the high court seeking protection to continue work at the two berths alleging law and order problems. The high court had directed the East Midnapore district administration to provide police protection to ensure normal working conditions. Kolkata Port Trust had then filed an application in the high court for a direction to HBT to resume work since an agreement for a resolution to the impasse was already signed, but work was not resumed by the private cargo handler.

The petition was dismissed as not pressed on 3 November when the Kolkata Port Trust counsel did not press the matter before the court and submitted that the application be allowed to be withdrawn or dismissed. Kolkata Port Trust authorities later on that day issued a press release stating that they had filed an application seeking recall of the order, claiming that they had not given any instruction to senior counsel to withdraw the application.

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