THE global shipping alliance formed by P & O Containers, Hapag-Lloyd, Neptune Orient Lines and Nippon Yusen Kaisha will start a weekly service to China next year or in early 1997. P & O Containers North America president Christopher Rankin said the trans-Pacific service would concentrate on the mainland ports of Shekou and Shanghai. Ships calling at Shekou and Shanghai would be in the 2,000 teu (20-foot equivalent unit) class, he said. 'Beginning in May, the alliance plans to operate four weekly services in the trans-Pacific trade lanes, and extend a fifth string for mainland China as soon as is practical,' he said. A port rotation plan for the China service was still under discussion among the alliance partners but could include the South Korean port of Pusan. He said China would become a central part of P & O's Asian operations, 'although we already have a heavy emphasis on Hong Kong, Taiwan and China'. P & O's Hong Kong-based regional director Gordon Wright said Shekou would be a good alternative to Hong Kong. He said Hong Kong's container terminals would reach saturation by 1998 in the absence of new terminal developments. P & O owns 25 per cent of Shekou Container Terminals and manages it. A separate service between Asia and the east coast of North America via the Suez canal will complete the alliance's global coverage. P & O will initially provide six vessels (equivalent to 3,600 TEUS per week) to the vessel pool. The company was investing more than US$100 million buying new chassis and other equipment. The partners are now co-ordinating new building plans. P & O, which has a fleet of 30 ships, operates five services in the trans-Atlantic trade and five in the trans-Pacific. P & O Containers North America had a turnover of $500 million last year. Mr Rankin said the figure would increase to $1 billion by the fourth quarter of 1998. The company has 29 offices in the US and Canada.