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Marathon meeting fails to break Haldia dock logjam

9-member team to place report in a week

Written by Express News Service | Kolkata |
October 5, 2012 3:25:54 am

9-member team to place report in a week

The impasse at Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) that began last month over cargo handling refuses to end with the crucial meeting of the stakeholders,including Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) and Haldia Bulk Terminals,remaining inconclusive on Thursday.

It was,however,agreed to constitute a nine-member committee comprising officials of various stakeholders including members of Haldia Bulk Terminals Officers Association,the KOPT officials and others to overcome the current impasse. “Every stakeholder wants to resolve the complex situation prevailing at HDC for the last one month. A nine-member panel has been formed with representatives from ABG,KoPT and other handling agents to chalk out a solution. The panel is expected to submit its report within a week,” KoPT chairman Manish Jain told a press conference in Kolkata.

Among others,the trade unions CITU,AITUC,INTTUC and INTUC were present at the meeting.

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At the centre of the row is the amount of cargo each operating agent would handle in the 14 berths of the HDC.

While Haldia Bulk Terminals (HBT),a joint venture of ABG Infralogistics and French Louis Dreyfus Armatuers,is sticking to its demand that it would need at least nine million tonnes of cargo to sustainably operate at the port,other cargo handling agents like Repley & Co and Five Star Shipping Agency say that the diverting such a large amount of cargo to one operator will hamper others’ business interests.

Recently,HBT retrenched 275 workers from its rolls on grounds that the amount of cargo handled by it was not sufficient. At present,it is left with 351 workers.

The dock handles an average 14 million tonnes of dry bulk cargo a year of which HBT handles 5 million tonnes. With HBT operating two mechanised berths — number 2 and number 8 — with a capacity 300 times more than other operators,it has demanded nine million tonnes — an additional 4 million tonnes — of cargo from the port authorities.

As a result it is now a crucial role for the KoPT to play a balancing act to keep interests of various stake holders,whose conflict of interest have hampered port operations for the last one month.

In today’s meeting,the stakeholders made clear that they were not very optimistic about the port’s measure.

Referring to ABG’s demand for a guarantee of minimum cargo to be handled by it at HDC,Jain said the arrival of cargo to KoPT berths has come down by 10 per cent this year but KoPT’s situation was better compared to the other ports since the economic down turn has brought down cargo of the ports like Vizag and Paradip by 30 per cent. “In such a situation everyone will have to make some sacrifices,” Jain said.

CEO of ABG-LDA Bulk Handling Pvt Ltd Gurpreet Malhi said the company will first evaluate the port’s proposal and then think of joining the committee.

He said one cannot operate with continuous losses. “The company will evaluate the port’s proposals before taking a decision,” Malhi said,hinting to the fact that HBT could even consider pulling out of the HDC.

Where the trade unions stand

CPM-backed CITU’s Lakshman Seth,who represented the trade union at the meeting,said the adjustment should come in such a way that one who is making loss should at least be given enough cargo to attain break even and those who are profiting should sacrifice some cargo,which will bring down their profits. “HBT’s demand is rational and it should be given enough cargo so that it can utilise its capacity,” Seth said. The HBT,he said,has incurred a loss of Rs 40 crore in two years of operation.

INTTUC said the HBT was blackmailing the port authorities and this has sparked off resentment among the dock workers leading to unrest.

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