FREIGHT forwarder Ideal Pacific is expected to start a joint container liner service between the coastal ports of China and Southeast Asia early next year. Chairman Alfred Ip said negotiations were at an advanced stage with a Chinese carrier and a leading Asian carrier to provide the service jointly. He said an announcement was expected in November, and the service could start after the Lunar New Year. A feeder vessel to carry 404 teus (20-foot equivalent units) is being built under a letter of intent for another proposed joint venture with a Chinese company. Ideal Pacific has advanced $20 million, which has been placed as a deposit with the Chinese shipyard. The vessel, to cost $78 million, will be deployed on routes between China and Southeast Asia. The group intends to hold at least a 50 per cent interest in the joint venture, which is expected to be incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. In the year to March, 62.7 per cent of the group's business originated in China and 30.5 per cent in Hong Kong. The group provides transshipment services between Hong Kong, Pusan, Osaka and Kobe. Mr Ip said there were plans to offer a transshipment service in Singapore and start a feeder service in southern China to meet fast-growing market demand. The company operates three self-propelled barges of 36 teus and three of 48 teus. Four feeder vessels, ranging in size from 202 teus to 430 teus, have been chartered to provide services between China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea. Mr Ip said container depot operation would form a significant part of the group's overall development programmes. The group's joint venture logistics base in Shanghai, the Shanghai United Asia Container Depot, would be fully operational in October. The 77,000 square metre container depot is one of the largest in Shanghai, able to accommodate 7,150 empty and more than 2,100 loaded teus. The group entered into a joint venture agreement to develop a 40,000 sq m inland container depot in Huangpu, Guangzhou. The company operates a fleet of 41 trucks and tractors on routes between Hong Kong and Guangdong province and in Shanghai to provide door-to-door delivery services. As part of the depot venture, the group has won the right to set up a trucking business in Shanghai.