But it faces increasing pressure to lower costs and improve cross-border traffic Hong Kong will keep its competitive edge as a free port in the Pearl River Delta despite Shenzhen's surging market share in container throughput, according to logistics executives. But they said shippers were pushing for lower costs and improved cross-border traffic. Hong Kong's status will not be challenged due to its efficiency and bilingual workers, said Zhou Tianlin, the director for Shenzhen Municipal Port Bureau. Free flow of information and high mobility of Hong Kong people also add value to the city, he said. 'Although Shenzhen may surpass Kwai Chung in throughput numbers, Hong Kong's leading status would not be changed. It's a free-trade port and the mainland can never compare with it.' Shenzhen's share of south China's deep-water container traffic has increased from 25 per cent in 2000 to 39 per cent last year. Its share in the first three quarters has jumped to almost 46 per cent. Shenzhen port handled 7.65 million 20ft equivalent units (teu) in the first nine months, up 39 per cent year on year. Container throughput at Kwai Chung increased 2.9 per cent to nine million boxes during the same period. Erik Bogh Christensen, managing director of port operator Modern Terminals, said competition provided more choice for customers in the region. 'We have to recognise the market is growing rapidly,' he said. 'If Hong Kong still wants to take 90 per cent of the share, it's completely unrealistic.' Although shippers have seen progress in transport cost and efficiency in south China over the past decade, there is still room for improvement, said Sunny Ho Lap-kee, executive director of the Hong Kong Shippers' Council. Council members are looking for improvements in Shenzhen's services, including customs and banking. They also urged Hong Kong to lower its costs as shippers' profits have been squeezed by fierce competition. 'Shippers are not happy with the high cost at Hong Kong,' Mr Ho said. 'We send time-sensitive items through Hong Kong [because of its efficiency], but we demand better cross-border traffic. Trucks need to queue up for an hour at the border during peak hours.'