TRUCK drivers who have threatened to disrupt container traffic could end up harming the economy, port operators have warned. The Hong Kong Container Port Operators Association, whose members include three of the four operators in Kwai Chung, claim they are victims of a political row among the drivers, who have forced them to postpone indefinitely a $100 gate charge. The operators are still trying to arrange further negotiations with drivers' trade unions and lorry owners after they failed to apply the charge on Monday. They fear they will miss out on a hoped-for revenue of $150 million. Upgrading facilities at the terminal has cost $1.8 billion. The proposed charge was postponed indefinitely after the 2,000-strong Organisation of Hong Kong Drivers threatened a series of slow drives and sit-in protests. But the 2,400-member Container Transportation Employee General Union - whose members recently caused a huge traffic jam with a slow-drive to protest against the withdrawal of a parking lot - agreed to pay. Alan Lee Yiu-kwong, spokesman for the container union, said: 'We're victims of their political rows. Sometimes one group will oppose any actions taken by another, regardless of the rationale. 'It's never ending, and it's hard to organise anything with consent from all of them.' There are six main unions but Mr Lee said union members did not have unified goals or a sophisticated way to co-operate with each other. He said the drivers' threat to strike would have adverse effects on Hong Kong's economy. 'If we can't keep up our efficiency and expansion, Hong Kong's reputation as the busiest container port in the world will pass to Singapore or Taiwan,' he said. Kwai Chung container port became the busiest in 1992, handling more than 7.9 million containers. The number grew by 15.5 per cent in 1993 and by 20.1 per cent last year. The three container port operators - Hong Kong International Terminals, COSCO-HIT and Sea-Land Orient Terminals - have invested money in land reclamation and computerisation. Lo Yik-charn of the Association of Hong Kong Drivers said that regardless of other groups' positions they believed the operators should not have asked them to pay on behalf of their customers. He said the practice had been tested for three months when the mid-stream operators, who handle containers on public cargo working areas, tried to impose a charge of $30 to $60 from February. The pilot scheme was forced to stop this week after opposition from drivers. 'Many of us still haven't received the payment. The $100 gate charge will be too much for us to lose,' Mr Lo said. The Hong Kong Shippers' Council and the Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association will not shoulder the charge because they are already paying a terminal handling charge. But Johnny Cheung Kong-chung, terminal manager of COSCO-HIT, believes the operators have not imposed handling charges and that the shippers are just trying to cash in. Mr Cheung warned that the gate charge was a purely commercial decision and if the investors' income did not match expenditure they would eventually pull out of the territory.