Throughput growth at a container-terminal joint-venture between Cosco Pacific and Hutchison Whampoa declined for the first time last month despite strong growth by other operators. Cosco Pacific said its Terminal 8 East handled 115,800 teu (20 ft equivalent units), a reverse of the 13 consecutive months of throughput growth. Despite growing at a rate of 18 per cent year-to-date, the decline at Terminal 8 East, the fourth-largest port operator whose major clients include Cosco's shipping fleet, could signal a potential slow-down in China exports. According to statistics from the Port Maritime Board (PMB), more than two-thirds of Kwai Chung Container Terminal cargo was from South China, with cargo originating from Hong Kong accounting for just 12 per cent. 'I do not think we have seen a decline pattern yet in Cosco, although we might see a modest throughput growth next year.' said Jim Wong, analyst at BNP Paribas Peregrine. Two other terminal operators saw double-digit growth last month. Modern Terminals Limited (MTL), the second-largest port operator and a subsidiary of Wharf Holdings, said handling capacity grew 25 per cent to 257,400 teu. MTL handled 2.78 million teu in the first 11 months, rising 16.6 per cent. A MTL official attributed the company's strong growth to improved trans-Atlantic traffic. Sealand Orient Terminals, the third-largest operator which handled capacity at Terminal 3, also saw robust growth after recording 16.4 per cent growth last month, the highest growth rate for the company this year. Alan Lee, managing director of Sealand, said the company secured additional clients which helped boost throughput. Operating figures for the largest port operator HIT, an 88 per cent subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa, were not available. According to statistics from the PMB, Kwai Chung Terminal handled 9.69 million teu between January and October, a 13.7 per cent growth compared with the corresponding period last year. A PMB official said throughput in Hong Kong, which also includes River Trade Terminals and Midstream operations, was on target to reach 18 million teu, or a growth of 11 per cent this year.