A delegation from San Diego hopes to stimulate exports of frozen food such as chicken, beef and seafood to the mainland to boost business at San Diego port. The delegation, led by mayor Susan Golding, also met members of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association and shipping lines to encourage them to use the port, which deals mainly in bulk and break-bulk cargo. 'We are looking for project cargo involving infrastructure projects in China,' said San Diego port manager of maritime trade Charles Labitan. Recognising the enormous potential for increased investment and trade with Asia, the Port District, World Trade Centre, Convention and Visitors' Bureau and Economic Development Corporation have set up a trade office in Hong Kong, headed by director Diana Chan. According to the port's 1997 annual report, it handled 530,774 tonnes of inbound cargo and one million tonnes of outbound cargo. Hong Kong was San Diego's 15th largest export destination last year, with a business volume of US$165 million. Imports from Hong Kong to San Diego ranked in fifth place. But San Diego handled only 7,000 teu (20 ft equivalent unit) of containers last year, most of which was used by a tunafish exporter. Mr Labitan said San Diego had the most advanced inter-modal rail transport for cars in the United States, having been upgraded last year. There were now six tracks that could handle 150 rail-trucks per day, each of which carried 15 vehicles. A source said Cosco and other key shipping lines had studied San Diego port, but were hesitant to use its facilities because the inter-modal transport links were still not fully developed. Mr Labitan said the port would be greatly improved when plans to build another 125-mile railway from San Diego to Imperial Valley materialised. Unfortunately, part of the rail link went through Mexican territory, and San Diego investors were waiting to see who would be awarded the contract to build the Mexican part of the railway before committing themselves. 'If everything goes fine, we can have a rail link between San Diego and Imperial Valley in a year's time,' Mr Labitan said, adding that the project would cost about $10 million. But if the authorities opted for the most-up-to-date rail facilities to serve larger double and triple-stack trains the project could take up to seven years and cost $100 million. While San Diego's inter-modal rail facilities for transporting cars were the best in the US, its rail links for transporting containers were way behind. Mr Labitan said San Diego was served by a good network of truckers who used highways to all parts of the US. San Diego also had a 200,000 square foot cold-storage facility by the dock for handling frozen food.