Shipping lines moving goods through Hong Kong are capitalising on an extended holiday season rush, albeit one which failed to reach its traditional peak in volumes, according to carrier executives. South China exporters shipping manufactured goods to major Western markets found space hard to come by this week, a period which usually follows the holiday season rush to market. 'People are running around looking for space on vessels,' said one carrier conference executive. 'The shippers are coming faster than the shipping lines can see them.' He said demand was particularly strong across the Pacific, to the Middle East and Australia. Data released this weak appears to belie recent reports of a comparative weakness in American demand, with containerised trade between Hong Kong and the United States up 10.4 per cent in the first nine months to 504,000 feu (40ft equivalent units), according to the Journal of Commerce's port import-export reporting service (Piers). The conference executive said carriers would like to put more temporary capacity on to the space-constrained sectors but sky-high charter rates for idle vessels were making that a money-losing proposition. 'The carriers have made headway in terms of increases in freight rates this year, but they would have to be a lot higher for them to afford present charter conditions,' he said. 'The volumes are showing strong growth right now but the rates have only grown gradually.' Trade between Asia, particularly Hong Kong, and secondary markets such as the Middle East and Australia is particularly strong. Traffic between Asia and the Middle East, which will eclipse the one-million container mark this year, is seeing a comparative growth of 15 to 20 per cent compared with last year. To Australia, ships are so full they have set a 'roll' pool in Singapore for cargo unable to find a south-bound vessel. The conference executive said the majority of the growth was being fuelled by the booming China market. According to Piers data, China now accounts for about a 45 per cent share of the trade from the Far East to Europe and half of the containerised trade moving to the US and Canada.