THE final bill for repairing the Japanese port of Kobe, severely damaged by an earthquake in January, will come to about US$5 billion, according to a port official. The port's facilities will be restored by the end of March 1997, according to Yoshio Takenaka, a director of the city government's Port and Harbour Bureau. Mr Takenaka headed a 12-member mission to Hong Kong recently to brief shippers and shipowners about the progress of the restoration. The mission comprised officials from port-related industries, such as shipping firms, terminal operators, warehousing and trading companies. Although the port was badly damaged, the first container terminal was reopened on March 20. Ten container berths are available. Sixty eight berths - 56 for cargo and 12 for passengers - are fully operational. Two more container berths and two feeder berths will be reopened this week. Kobe has 239 berths, of which 150 are public berths, 36 owned by Kobe Port Terminal Corp (KPTC) and 53 private berths. Of the 201 liner services calling at Kobe before the earthquake, 154 have resumed services. Despite the damage, the port has attracted 13 new liner services since the earthquake. Container throughput in September amounted to 156,041 teus, up 103 per cent over the August figure and about 70 per cent of the volume handled in September last year. In September, 410 vessels called at the port, about 81 per cent of the vessel calls in September last year. The amount of foreign trade handled through the port in September amounted to 506 billion yen (about HK$38.46 billion). Exports amounted to 332 billion yen, 80.5 per cent of that handled in September last year. Imports amounted to 174 billion yen, 78 per cent of the value handled in September last year. Mr Takenaka said container handling services were available round-the-clock, including public holidays, enabling effective use of the limited number of container terminals available, and that while the restoration was on, some port charges were cut or waived.