HUTCHISON Whampoa has taken over Zhuhai's container terminals in a 50/50 joint venture with the city's port authority. The agreement covers the existing Jiuzhou Port and, significantly, also includes Gaolan Port, which is being developed as a massive deep-water facility to the south of the city. Initial investment in upgrading the facilities at Jiuzhou will cost $200 million. Hutchison's majority-owned Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) is to manage the joint venture company, Zhuhai International Container Terminals Limited. Jiuzhou last year handled 180,000 TEUs (the standard measure in the container industry), and has a kilometre of quayside. HIT managing director Mr John Meredith said the move was part of a strategy for developing a string of feeder ports in the Pearl River Delta. He said the firm was finalising a deal to set up a container depot at San Shan, just south of Guangzhou, and was eyeing two other feeder sites on the eastern bank of the Pearl River. Most of the cargo from the ports would be transferred to Kwai Chung and shipped internationally from there. ''This is all to get round the problems of road traffic congestion crossing the Hongkong border,'' said Mr Meredith. The bottleneck has been troubling terminal operators and shipping lines and in February P & O surprised the industry when it initiated a regular service to Shekou to pick up cargo. Under Hutchison's joint-venture agreement, Zhuhai International Container Terminals will also develop and operate Gaolan. It is an ambitious deep-water port project that occupies 116 square kilometres, an area the size of Hongkong island and Kowloon combined. Construction of the first container terminal at Gaolan is expected to start next year. A superhighway linking Gaolan to Zhuhai is nearing completion, major rail and bridge links are planned, and an airport is to be built at nearby San Zao. In addition, Hutchison Whampoa group managing director Mr Simon Murray has confirmed that the company remains interested in developing deep water Yan Tian Port, on Mirs Bay to the west of Hongkong, which he described as ''an investment of real substance.'' Hutchison has held discussions with China's Ministry of Communications over developing Yan Tian. Some commentators have pointed out that the development of Gaolan and Yan Tian raises questions over the viability of Hongkong Government plans to develop new container terminals on Lantau Island as part of the Port and Airport Development Strategy (PADS). For HIT, which is 60 per cent owned by Hutchison, it has been a landmark year. The company is developing the sprawling ports of Shanghai and Pudong under a joint venture signed in September with Shanghai Harbour Bureau. Last week it was voted Best Container Terminal Operator at the 7th Asian Freight Industry Awards. Mr Murray revealed that other Hutchison Whampoa operations in Zhuhai would include construction of a power station.