WHENEVER a typhoon heads towards Hong Kong, Kwai Chung port becomes a hive of activity, with workers lashing down container boxes so that they will not be damaged in the event of a direct hit. A nasty experience at Kaohsiung port, which saw a storm damage several containers and cranes came as a grim reminder to the territory's operators. ''We cannot take chances as we handle 60 per cent of the market share. Imagine if we were out of action after a storm,'' said Johnny Cheung, Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT) operations manager. Hong Kong port, the world's busiest, last year handled nearly eight million TEUs (20 ft equivalent units) - the majority of which originated from China. When Typhoon Abe approached the territory over the weekend and the Number One signal was hoisted, HIT workers took precautions to lash down about 6,000 containers - obviously having to unlash them when the storm missed the territory. Mr Cheung said if a typhoon approached Hong Kong directly, the terminal which held an average of 25,000 boxes on any day, would have to lash down all of them, using about 200 workers to do the job. It took between six to eight hours to lash the 6,000 boxes as a precautionary move, he said. Besides the containers, the terminal has also to lash down its 27 quay and 92 yard cranes. The containers and cranes had to be anchored as strong winds could cause them to shift and fall, becoming a safety hazard, Mr Cheung said. ''After the storm blows over, we have the reverse procedures that takes place in stages. The cranes are unlashed first to allow the trucks to come in, followed by containers that need to be moved, leaving the empties until last,'' he said. All costs of lashing and unlashing the containers and equipment were absorbed by the terminal operator, he said. Mr Cheung said if there was a storm, shippers could call an emergency number - 419 6600 - to find out whether HIT was open or not to receive their consignments. A Modern Terminals (MTL) spokesman said the terminal had lashed down some empty containers when Typhoon Abe approached, but had not taken any major action while awaiting developments of the storm. ''Any action taken would depend on the individual strength of the typhoon and it was not necessary that the same course of action is taken for every typhoon,'' he said. On an average, MTL had 20,000 containers in its yard on any one day and it would take about 100 workers to lash all of them down. It also had to make safe cranes and some operating equipment. A Sea-Land Orient Terminals spokesman said Sea-Land handled an average of 8,000 TEUs on any one day. It also had 27 cranes, including pier and yard cranes and one top-loader which needed to be lashed down if a typhoon directly approached Hong Kong. The spokesman said about 50 to 100 workers would be needed for the lashing work, depending on the strength and direction of the winds. Port sources said shippers could rest assured that Hong Kong has contingency plans laid down to face any sort of storm and take the necessary precautions to ensure safety and security of cargo shipments.