THE fact that the Port Development Board spent precious minutes yesterday discussing the development of the territory's 11th container terminal would seem to be a classic waste of time in the present circumstances. With only seven terminals working now, the eighth little more than a pile of reclaimed sand and pilings nosing through the surface of our fragrant harbour, the ninth trapped in political purgatory and no definite site sorted out for the 10th, talk of starting work on the 11th would seem totally pie-in-the-sky stuff - were this not Hongkong. But as Secretary for Economic Services Anson Chan pointed out almost a year ago, port traffic is growing so fast that the territory needs to add a new container port the size of Felixstowe - Britain's largest - every 12 months to keep up with demand. We should also remember that Mrs Chan accompanied that statement with the warning that any failure to meet that demand would ''seriously affect'' our key role as a regional hub port and service centre. And the lost employment opportunities that would ensue could not be in anyone's interests. Well, nearly 12 months have passed, the need for additional capacity by mid-1995 is as pressing as ever and little progress has been made on the project. The only significant advance has been the creation of an unholy alliance of two rival consortiums - which spent much of the past year tearing at each others' throats - to handle the construction and operation of what will become Container Terminal 9. There are, at best, only 30 months to go before the first of the four berths at the proposed Tsing Yi site is needed but still no one knows when work will ever start. Mr Tony Clark, Deputy Secretary of Maritime Affairs in the Economic Services Branch, expressed confidence yesterday that this uncertainty over Terminal 9 would blow over like other past issues. But the only certainty about Terminal 9 is that detailed technical discussions are still taking place between the Government and the two consortiums - HIT-MTL and the Tsing Yi Container Terminal Consortium (TYC) - who have accepted the Government's offerto build and operate Terminal 9. Unlike Mr Clark, they are showing signs of concern about both the timing and financing of the project. A senior executive in one of the groups admitted yesterday: ''No banker will touch the project with a barge pole at this stage until it gets a rubber stamp from the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group.'' And MTL managing director Mark Leese told an international transport journal last month that the political row between China and Britain was threatening to delay the project, sending development costs out of control. The delays in implementing the initial development stages could affect the terminal's completion date, especially as the likelihood of commencing development work by January, as was first planned, is looking more and more remote. Mr Leese pointed out that technical issues involved in the development of Terminal 9 are still very big in themselves and, added to this, the formulation of legal agreements which have to be concluded before development can be started will not be easy. It's a worrying picture, especially as the port remains very much at the heart of the territory's future prosperity.