Hong Kong Port and Maritime Board chairman Gordon Wu Ying-sheung has condemned Hong Kong's mid-stream cargo handling system as outdated. Mr Wu, also chairman of infrastructure conglomerate Hopewell Holdings, said ferrying cargo to and from ships moored offshore was a '19th century solution to a 20th century problem'. 'Normally you see this mode of operation in the developing country ports in Africa, not in Hong Kong,' he said. Mr Wu's comments come less than a week after truck drivers staged a blockade at the entrance to Kwai Chung port after mid-stream operators announced a plan to levy a HK$40 per container handling surcharge. Hong Kong has 18 berths available at Container Terminals One to Eight to handle an average daily arrival of 108 cargo ships. As a result, most cargo is transported on and off vessels that are moored mid-stream. Figures due to be released by the Hong Kong Port and Maritime Authority are expected to show container throughput last year topped 18 million standard containers, or 20-foot equivalent units. Of this, 83 per cent would have been handled by mid-stream operators. Speaking at a transportation and logistics conference organised by Lloyd's FTB Asia, Mr Wu said port expansion was being hindered by bureaucrats and the Environmental Protection Department (EPD). He criticised the EPD for being able to challenge a project at any time from inception to completion and for 'changing the rules' despite not having published any rules. 'They are starting to play Moses. They have the commandments as well as the authority to interpret,' he said. Mr Wu said that he supported sound environmental principles and sensible development through proper engineering. Also speaking at the conference, Tung Chee-chen, chairman and chief executive of Orient Overseas International, called on the Government-controlled Hong Kong International Airport and the Port Authority to reduce costs to help local companies, saying: '[The airport or port authority] could reduce the costs for Hong Kong-owned factories in Guangdong when shipping goods and equipment in and out of China.' Shippers using Hong Kong's facilities face some of the highest terminal handling charges in the region. The handling charge for a standard container is HK$2,140. This compares with HK$1,100 in the Chinese ports of Shenzhen, Yantian, Shekou and Chiwan. In Shanghai the charge is HK$514 and in Singapore HK$813. Mr Tung said developing infrastructure facilities in the Pearl River Delta region should not be seen as a threat but should render business in the SAR more competitive.