The Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) today got some relief from the high court here over the removal of equipment worth Rs 140-crore belonging to ABG Haldia Bulk Terminals (HBT) — a joint venture between ABG-LDA Bulk Handling Pvt Ltd and KoPT —from the Haldia Dock Complex (HDC).
Today, a division bench asked HBT not to take the equipment out of India and also directed that special officers needs to be informed about its location.
“Rather than giving ABG a clean chit, the court has given some checks and balances today. However, how can they sell something which is already under an arbitration process?” said a top port official, who did not want to be named.
The equipment included six cranes, 50 dumpers, 26 loaders and waybridges. When asked about KoPT’s allegation of selling its equipment, Gurpreet Malhi, CEO of HBT said, “We had sold those dumpers much before the arbitration process started. We are yet to decide on whether to go for an appeal against today’s judgement.”
KoPT had moved the high court earlier this week, seeking compensation of Rs 233 crore for the losses it suffered due to HBT’s pullout from operations at HDC. The port also told ABG not to take the equipment out.
The legal battle had attracted international attention, following a diplomatic intervention by the French government to allow safe passage for the HBT equipment out of Haldia. Earlier this month, a high court single bench had given a green signal to ABG for the removal of its equipment. It also appointed two special officers to look into safe passage of the machinery.
On October 31, HBT, a joint venture between ABG Infralogistics and French firm Louis Dreyfus Armateurs, had pulled out of its operations at berth number 2 and 8 at HDC, breaking a 10-year-contract (2010-20), citing law and order issues.
The trigger for the pullout was the abduction of three of HBT officials, including the family of one official, on October 28. The French government had approached New Delhi bilaterally following requests from Louis Dreyfus Armateurs.