CHINA should do some fundamental rethinking in their plans to direct container traffic, says the Hongkong Liner Shipping Association chairman Terence Sit. He said the authorities needed to include in their plans the establishment of regional hubs on the China coast to separate the handling of traffic from the northern and eastern regions. ''In the case of the former, it would be the race between Xingang and Dalian, both of which have ambitious plans to expand their container port facilities,'' Mr Sit said. He made the comments in an address entitled ''Is Hongkong's role as the hub port for China being threatened'' at the International Containerisation and Intermodal Expo (ICIE) conference which ended yesterday . The conference was held in conjunction with the joint World Freight '93 and ICIE exhibition. Mr Sit said that in the mainland's eastern areas, it remained to be seen whether Shanghai or Ningbo would become the future hub. Shanghai is embarking on a major renovation programme of its container ports through a joint venture with Hutchison Whampoa while Ningbo is negotiating for new investments to build a container port of the future. In the south, new container ports were mushrooming in the Pearl River delta, Mr Sit said. The port of Zhuhai, half a day away from Hongkong by barge, was already handling close to 200,000 20 ft equivalent units (TEUs), a much bigger volume than was being handled at the larger port of Huangpu, he said. The ports of Shekou and Chiwan to the north of Hongkong handled over 100,000 TEUs last year, half of which were handled at the newly commissioned dedicated facilities of Shekou Container Terminal (SCT), Mr Sit said. And the deep-sea port of Yantian, which was earmarked as one of the four major port development projects in eastern China by the Ministry of Communication, was slowly taking shape, he said. Mr Sit said while Yantian could claim superiority in navigational aspects, the ports of Shekou and Chiwan also could claim they were ideally located to capture Pearl River traffic. He said these port developments were not going to pose serious threats to the future of Hongkong's container port. The hinterlands served by Hongkong, Shekou and Yantian were rapidly expanding with the improvement of infrastructure in China which would encourage more mobility of labour and freight traffic, he said. Both Shekou and Yantian will have their own railway extensions by 1994 and a second north-south trunk line, the Beijing-Kowloon Railway, is to be in operation in 1997. The cheap land and labour would allow Shekou and Yantian to offer low-cost container freight station, warehousing and storage facilities while Hongkong would continue to provide efficient quayside operation plus sophisticated communication for those shipping lines which required faster turnaround of their expensive vessels, Mr Sit said. Container traffic in China would forge ahead at a much faster pace in the next decade due to greater economic reform, he said. The coastal provinces in China were expected to see dramatic increases of manufacturing through investments from Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. ''Most of the major container ports in China are already working up to or in excess of their designed capacity,'' Mr Sit said. Although new facilities were ready in Dalian and Shekou, their modest capacities were well below the rate of growth of traffic and massive amounts of investments and improvement in productivity were required to meet the future challenge, he said. He also suggested that the port of Hongkong, Shekou and Yantian would become a massive complex of port facilities offering differing options to port users. And the developments in China also would lead to a splitting of container traffic to ports offshore, he added. Mr Sit said the China-Hongkong feeder trade, which has been monopolised by Sinotrans, was going to change with the loosening of regulations governing the operation of foreign shipping lines.