HONG KONG handled 3.7 million teus (20 foot equivalent units) in the first four months of this year, according to figures released by the Marine Department. The throughput was up 16.5 per cent over the same period last year. The eight terminals at Kwai Chung handled 2.45 million teus, up 17.5 per cent. There was a 9.5 per cent increase in the number of containers handled in mid-stream, to 913,000 teus. River trade was up a hefty 28.5 per cent, reaching 338,000 teus. Port Development Board secretary Tony Clark said the figures confirmed the board's projections for the introduction of new container handling facilities. He said the first berth of Container Terminal Nine should ideally be ready by September next year but with delays to construction, that was not possible. 'That makes it all the more imperative to bring the terminals on Lantau Island into operation as soon as possible,' Mr Clark said. It is planned that the first berth of Terminals 10 and 11 on Lantau should come on stream by mid-1998. He said the big increase in river trade underlined the need for a dedicated river-trade terminal. He said the Government hoped to grant the rights to build and operate the first river-trade terminal towards the end of this year. The terminal would be built near Tuen Mun and its first berth should come into operation in 1998. 'With more than 1.25 million teus likely to be handled by river vessels this year, it is obvious that shippers are looking increasingly at the Pearl River as a natural highway to Hong Kong's port,' Mr Clark said.