China's move to foster direct shipping links with Taiwan has received mixed reactions from Hong Kong port and shipping officials, but generally is not seen as a major threat to the port. Port Development Board chief assistant secretary K.K. Ng yesterday said that while there would be some effect on Hong Kong, it would be 'of minor significance'. Quoting board figures, he said China-Taiwan cargo volume through Hong Kong accounted for only 3.2 per cent, or about a million teu (20-foot equivalent units), of the port's total in 1994. In the event of direct cross-strait shipping links, about 90 per cent of 3.2 per cent would be lost, he said. However, the robust growth of Guangdong-Hong Kong trade would more than make up for the loss, Mr Ng said. Hong Kong Shippers' Council executive director Clement Yeung Wong also said the move would not be disastrous for Hong Kong because most of the cargo handled in Hong Kong was not meant for the China-Taiwan trade. 'As the Pearl River delta provides the bulk of cargoes lifted in the territory, business loss to either the Chinese port of Yantian and the Taiwanese port of Kaohsiung won't be great,' he said. Hong Kong Shipowners Association assistant director Gilbert J.P. Feng said: 'While direct links are good news for Chinese-Taiwanese container traders, it is not so for their Hong Kong counterparts as they stand to lose some business.' He said the association was investigating the potential impact. Further improvement to Hong Kong's container services and lowering container-handling costs would help the territory effectively compete with cheaper Taiwan ports. APL (Hong Kong) managing director David Starling said: 'In the event of such links, the company will move its transpacific cargo over to Kaohsiung, instead of via Hong Kong. 'But Europe-bound cargo probably will still be moved over through Hong Kong.' Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association secretary-treasurer Roberto Giannetta said the opening of cross-strait trade would be good news for shipping companies. 'It is something that the shipping community expects to come into place,' he said. The links would provide greater flexibility and more alternatives for liners. 'Their needs can be accommodated and they will get cost-efficient services,' he said. 'Kaohsiung and other Taiwan ports, which are 48-50 per cent cheaper than Hong Kong container terminals, are now an option. 'So are certain southern China ports like Yantian' which was 35 per cent cheaper, he said. 'Shipping lines will definitely amend their operating procedures to go to these ports.' Hong Kong ports were not deep enough to accommodate new container vessels, with carrying capacities of 6,000 teu, but both Yantian and Kaohsiung could take such ships.