The Government has been urged to start dredging the main approach of the Rambler Channel to enable the latest generation of container ships to operate freely. The Port Development Board (PDB) will meet the public works sub-committee on Wednesday to ask for $296.4 million to deepen the channel to 15 metres from 12.5 metres. PDB secretary Tony Clark said: 'This money will be offset by the $220 billion business which will be generated each year and which will sustain the 600,000 workers at the port.' He said the ships coming into the harbour were not fully laden and in a year, the situation would change. 'We have to be pro-active and have sufficient water so that Hong Kong's trading status will not be impaired.' The PDB's plan is to begin dredging in September, with a completion target of June next year. Modern Terminals Ltd (MTL) corporate communications manager Mike Trueman said it was important to get the dredging going as soon as possible. MTL was having to divert vessels which had a draught of more than 12 metres to Container Terminal 8, which had a draught of about 15 metres, he said. MTL received six to eight vessels monthly that needed a draught of more than 12 metres. Another MTL official said: 'This figure will increase when shipping lines take delivery of new vessels [with a 6,000 teu capacity] once every three to four months this year.' He said even 4,000 to 5,000 teu capacity vessels might need a draught of more than 12 metres if they were fully laden, and MTL's Terminals 1, 2 and 5 could not cater for them as these terminals had draughts of less than 12 metres. 'Last week, we had a 4,500 teu vessel which had a draught of 13 metres,' he added. Each terminal operator has to dredge 50 metres out into the harbour. Mr Trueman said MTL would have to spend $80 million to dredge Terminals 1, 2 and 5. The dredging work will include strengthening the reinforcements, key structures for supporting the concrete piling and replacement fenders. MTL will carry out the dredging work jointly with neighbouring Sea-Land Orient Terminals, which operates berth 3. An MTL official said they had consulted three consultants, but had not yet appointed any to the project. 'We are waiting for the Government's decision on the deepening project before we carry our part of the work,' he said. Hong Kong International Terminals spokesman Nora Yong Ming-tjoo said: 'We do not wish to divulge the cost we have to pay for the deepening of our berths.' Hong Kong is the world's busiest container port, with volume last year at 12.6 million teu, up from 11.1 million in 1994. Only Terminals 7 and 8 are accessible to the largest container ships.