THE Hongkong Coalition of Service Industries has backed the concept of a single cargo terminal at Chek Lap Kok. ''We are not supporting HACTL [Hongkong Air Cargo Terminals Limited] per se, we are supporting the concept of a single terminal,'' said secretary Mr Chan Wai-kwan. ''The overwhelming concern of the shippers and exporters must be efficiency and stability, whether it's a single terminal operation or a multi-terminal operation.'' Mr Chan said that, where possible, they would prefer competition. But following his in-depth study of the airport master plan, he felt true competition was not possible at Chek Lap Kok. ''For genuine competition you have got to have more than just a few operators there. ''The master plan has already set out that, because of size and space limitations, there cannot be more than three operators in the terminal,'' he said. Mr Chan called it a choice between a monopoly and a duopoly. ''If it's between the monopoly and competition we would surely go for competition,'' he said. ''Between the monopoly and duopoly, we think a controlled monopoly would be much preferred. ''It's more difficult to control oligopoly than to control a monopoly,'' he said. ''Within our existing mechanism, we do have a scheme of control administered by the Economic Services Branch. ''In the case of duopolies, we will lose this controlling mechanism.'' The Economic Services Branch would have no mandate to introduce the control scheme, either in price control or the control of the operations, he said. ''In such a situation, it seems that the temptation would be too great for the operators to operate in collusion,'' he added. Citing the Kwai Chung container port as a parallel example, Mr Chan said it was difficult to pressure cargo operators to be more efficient at Kwai Chung. ''The threat of collusion is a major factor. Another is stability.'' Mr Chan said the scheme of control was open to debate and consultation. ''The operator will want the most favourable terms, and the users will want the maximum control,'' he said. ''A battle will ensue. At least a means will be available of making sure the monopoly will be run as efficiently as possible.'' Mr Chan is the author of The Making Of Hong Kong Society, which was written for his Phd from Essex University in Britain. The book is a study of the economic history of Hongkong, followed through the early development of Kai Tak airport. ''The mega-trend is this. Hongkong has already developed to a stage that much of our competitiveness has been exhausted,'' Mr Chan said. ''On the one hand, other people are catching up fast, notably China. ''On the other hand, we are so advanced already that it is more difficult for us to advance further compared to other people,'' he said. That was why Hongkong had to take steps to make sure that the quality of its economic output kept on improving. ''The only way to ensure this is to continually add value to what we are doing,'' he said.