Private cargo handler Haldia Bulk Terminals (HBT) on Friday refuted the allegations made by the Kolkata Port Trust.

Following the cargo handler’s decision on October 31 to pull out from Haldia port, KoPT had accused HBT of not abiding by the terms of the long-term contract and “causing financial losses” to the port.

In a statement, Gurpreet Malhi, CEO of HBT, said: “…KoPT has greatly benefited by our presence, earned more than Rs 150 crore and we have brought about a three-fold increase in productivity, which greatly enhanced the image of Kolkata Port.”

If HBT’s claims are anything to go by, the company was instrumental in maintaining a better cargo as well as revenue flow to Haldia port amidst an overall decline in earnings of ports across the world.

“We continue to be at a loss to comprehend what prevented KoPT from earning more revenue from our operations by allocating more cargo to us,” Malhi added.

Refuting the allegations levelled by certain quarters than HBT was over optimistic in its offer to gain the contract and had run into financial stress, Malhi said: “In the increasingly competitive business environment, our quotes are placed keeping in mind a moderate and steady operational profit.”

Ruling out the KoPT’s allegations that HBT defaulted in paying PF and ESI dues to its employees, Malhi said: “This is a baseless allegation. We confirm that we have paid 100 per cent of all statutory dues, including PF, ESI, PT etc…for our employees.”

The ABG-LDA joint venture subsidiary denied KoPT’s claims that it “vitiated” the atmosphere by retrenching (275) workers and that led to breakdown in law and order. “Law and order problems existed even before the retrenchment….the (interim) order of the Calcutta High Court (on Oct 19) vindicates our stand.”

According to Malhi, the company did not “look for an excuse” to exit the contract and continued to believe KoPT would allocate more cargo.

“When KoPT and the vested interests realised that we would not quit, they resorted to the final low of beating up and abducting our officers, including a one-year-old child. What was the fault of this helpless one-year old?” .

Replying to a comment by State Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee that HBT did not approach the State Government, Malhi said: “We have written numerous letters to the State Government, which they have chosen to ignore.”

(This article was published on November 2, 2012)
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