The long-awaited agreement to develop the $10 billion Container Terminal 9 (CT9) complex at Tsing Yi will lead to a widespread shake-up in port operations, with Modern Terminals (MTL) coming off worst, industry insiders say. 'The biggest loser is going to be MTL. The deal means that at some stage Maersk will leave MTL and join Sea-Land Service,' one source said. 'Maersk is already Sea-Land's global partner elsewhere. The CT9 deal means Sea-Land will be in a position to extend its facilities and offer an attractive deal to Maersk to switch.' The main beneficiaries will be Sea-Land and New World Infrastructure which 'have been eager participants' in the project. This is because Sea-Land will be able to move from its cramped conditions at CT3 which, despite handling more than one million teu (20 ft equivalent units), cannot cope with demand. Some of its throughput has to be diverted to the adjacent Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) berth. HIT also will benefit because it will be able to develop a multi-use, trade-related commercial centre containing offices and facilities for freight forwarders. The Government on Monday said the three terminal operators - MTL, HIT and Asia Container Terminals (ACT) - had concluded commercial terms to develop CT9. These included a deal between MTL and ACT to swap two MTL berths at CT8 for ACT's rights to two berths at CT9. Officials said the agreement paved the way for land grants and other final details to be signed by mid-October and for construction to begin this year or early next year. Insiders said the agreement for CT9 meant there was little chance Container Terminal 10 and terminals planned for Lantau Island would go ahead. They said that by the time CT9 was fully operational about 2004, Hong Kong and the Shenzhen ports would be working so closely further container terminals in Hong Kong would be unnecessary. Insiders pointed to the fact that CT9 had a design capacity of 2.6 million teu - the same as the existing terminals and equal to about 435,000 teu per berth. This was considerably less than the actual throughput of each berth. Consequently, development of CT9 could take considerably longer than the five years estimated. According to the CT9 deal, the MTL/HIT consortium will form 140 hectares of land along the eastern side of Tsing Yi Island, of which 70 hectares will be handed back by the Government for construction of CT9. The remainder will be developed by the Government as roads and container back-up facilities. CT9 will have six berths, with the first scheduled to come into operation by the end of 2001. The remaining berths will come into operation at five-month or six-month intervals. The Port and Maritime Board said it remained committed to CT10 and future terminal projects, although it admitted the timing of the developments was uncertain. 'The plans are ready but it will depend on actual future growth. It will probably be required by 2005,' a spokesman said yesterday.