The Shenzhen Municipal Port Bureau may lower its full-year projection after container throughput growth at the city's ports slowed last month due to the Sars outbreak. Shenzhen's four major ports - Yantian in the east, Chiwan Container Terminal, Shekou Container Terminal (SCT) and CM Ports Service in the west - handled 2.9 million teu (20-ft equivalent units) in the first four months of this year, representing year-on-year growth of 43 per cent. However, annual growth in the first quarter reached 47.5 per cent. 'Cargo throughput slowed down a bit last month. We are still looking for the reason but the Sars outbreak might have an impact on container volumes,' Shenzhen Municipal Port Bureau director Zhou Tianlin said. At the beginning of the year, the bureau expected Shenzhen ports, benefiting from the robust exports from the Pearl River delta, to handle more than 8.5 million teu this year. This projection might be scaled down because of the impact of Sars, Mr Zhou said. 'The extent of negative impact depends on how long the epidemic lingers. I think the drop in container volumes will be more obvious in the third quarter as there may be a reduction in manufacturing orders with the cancellations of trade fairs,' he said. Shekou port, minority held by Wharf (Holdings), reported the healthiest business growth, with container throughput jumping 75 per cent to 380,000 teu from January to last month. The port lost one of its biggest clients - China Ocean Shipping - in November 2001 but it is handling more cargo volume due to the organic growth of its remaining clients. 'The base of last year was low. But the shipping lines using our ports are seeing strong growth this year,' SCT chief executive Cheyenne Yu said. The port added five international service strings this year, lifting its total to 18. 'With increasing frequency and routes, more shipping lines are using our port. We will be gaining two more routes this month,' Mr Yu said. Hutchison Port Holdings' facility at Yantian and China Merchants' Chiwan port handled 1.49 million teu and 450,000 teu respectively in the first four months, both reporting year-on-year growth of 34 per cent.