Shipping and industry representatives have expressed relief over the Container Terminal 9 (CT9) deal, but warned the parties involved could struggle to pay off the huge cost of constructing the terminal. Widespread doubts also have been voiced about financial aspects of the deal as well as plans to build terminals 10, 11 and 12, particularly in the light of increased competition which has seen volumes from China fall. Michael Allwood, chairman of the Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association, raised questions about the financial arrangements which will be put in place in the wake of yesterday's announcement. 'The question is if they can work out the financial details for the deal,' he said. 'They have agreed the principle of exchange, but there are a few financial ramifications of exchanging older assets at CT8 for newer ones at CT9.' Mr Allwood also said it required a 'brave man' to take on the estimated $10 billion - compared with much lower figures on previous terminals - required to build what would be the world's most expensive container terminal. 'It is not that Hong Kong does not need it, but it is a financial risk. For investors in CT9, the problem is coming in at a top-dollar price when competition is coming in. It is a much bigger risk [to build now] than CT8 was,' he said. Volumes from China were now growing at just 3 per cent a year compared with the 10 to 15 per cent growth rates seen in previous years, he said. This problem had its origins in the spiralling competition from ports such as Shenzhen, which had created over-capacity which drove down prices and margins. 'These companies have to be prepared for a longer pay-off period for their investment in the terminal. It is hard to envisage higher prices because this would accelerate the transfer of shipping business away from Hong Kong,' he said. 'Terminals 10, 11 and 12 are a bigger risk again, imposing a very much higher cost,' Mr Allwood said. Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce chief economist Ian Perkin said the issue of the possible opening of the new terminals was in need of further debate. 'It needs more discussion, particularly on the basis of the opening of Chinese ports, and the prospects of relations between Taiwan and China are improving,' Mr Perkin said. The deal would be 'positive for business generally in Hong Kong and for the future development of the port', he said. Hong Kong Shipowners' Association director Michael Farlie said the issue of what the new terminal would charge was a strong consideration, but that shipping passing through the territory was likely to grow regardlessly. 'Shipowners will always say port charges are too high, but that's business. The fact of the matter is: if it is so expensive, why are they coming back? 'They have been very good here at devising new schemes for handling containers faster and more efficiently than anywhere in the world. You get what you pay for. If it really was too expensive, they would go elsewhere.' Mr Farlie said it was 'very sad for Hong Kong that it's taken such a long time for [the CT9] issue to be resolved'. 'It could easily have been resolved if a better will had been used by all sides earlier. But knowing Hong Kong, I'm sure the interested parties will be driven to make up for lost time.'