"Haldia Bulk Terminals pulled out owing to drop in volume of work"

Even as the Haldia Bulk Terminals Pvt Ltd, (HBT) a cargo handling company that has decided to pull out from the Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) announced on Saturday the retrenchment of 348 of its employees, the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) authorities alleged that the company was trying to “run away” because of a drop in the volume of cargo handling.

“The company created a hype just to try and escape the penalty by KoPT,” Manish Jain, the acting chairperson of the port trust said here. But it would have to pay the penalty since it had terminated the contract, Mr. Jain said.

Referring to the statement of the officials of the company that they are happy with their operations at the Kolkata Port (another port under KoPT), Mr. Jain said the company cannot have two policies for the same organisation.

The company has applied for fresh tenders to work with KoPT, he said pointing out that it would not have done so if it did not have faith in the management.

Mr. Jain said that while the cargo at the Kolkata port increased by over 10 per cent in the last two years the cargo at the Haldia port declined by 17 per cent until September 2012.

“KoPT is not here to protect the interest of one business group but to look after the interest of the economy of the entire region,” he said.

There have been serious attempts by the company to violate the contract in the past but KoPT overlooked them, Mr. Jain said, adding the port authorities tried to implement the contract with HBT in letter and spirit.

Meanwhile a statement issued by Gurpreet Malhi, CEO, HBT said the company was “left with no option but to retrench its 348 employees” with effect from November 3.

The company that operated berth number two and eight at HDC had removed 275 of its employees a few weeks earlier. This led to an impasse at HDC with the retrenched employees protesting against the company’s decision. Later HBT alleged that three of its senior employees were abducted and forced to leave Haldia at gunpoint.

The company announced termination of its contract with KoPT on Wednesday and said it would pull out from HDC.

In its statement, HBT blamed KoPT for “repeated breaches of the contract and its failure to ensure a safe and conducive work environment.”