Terminals see dismal growth as shippers prefer Shenzhen's cheaper port facilities The record flood of mainland exports last year barely registered a ripple at the main terminals, with shippers opting for the cheaper facilities across the border. Despite a 37 per cent rise in the value of mainland exports last year, terminal operators at Kwai Chung saw throughput expand an aggregate 1.5 per cent, a rate closer to the slumps that followed the Asian financial crisis and the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Just over a million boxes crossed the main terminal's docks in the final month - marking the seventh straight month of negative growth - and pushing the final tally to 12.07 million teu (20-foot equivalent units). 'One could say that is alarming and we have to do more to reverse that recent trend,' said Erik Bogh Christensen, the managing director of Modern Terminals, the port's No2 operator. 'The good news is everyone is doing more.' Mr Christensen said the South China deep-sea market - Kwai Chung plus the main terminals in Shenzhen - grew a little over 12 per cent last year, or about 2.5 million boxes. But with growth slowing, Hong Kong did not benefit from the spillover from Shenzhen as it had in more robust years. 'For the last few months, the overall market expansion was in the high single digits. And when there is single-digit growth the cargo goes through Shenzhen,' he said. 'But when we get up to 12, 14 and 15 per cent growth, the shippers get nervous and direct business through Hong Kong.' River trade and midstream activities continued to be a key source of revenue for Hong Kong in the first 10 months. Overall, throughput at the port expanded 6.8 per cent year on year in the first 10 months, reaching 16.84 million teu. 'We conservatively estimate that we will have handled more than 20 million boxes last year, retaining our status as the world's busiest container port,' a spokeswoman for the Economic Development and Labour Bureau said yesterday. River trade grew more than 13 per cent year on year to the end of October, moving more than 3.67 million boxes. The midstream, buoyed by comparative growth of almost 23 per cent in October, accounted for 3.14 million of the port's boxes in the first 10 months, up 15.2 per cent. Mr Christensen said Modern Terminal's throughput grew 10.5 per cent last year, a rate that would suggest the port's No1 operator, Hutchison Whampoa's Hongkong International Terminals, suffered.