HONG Kong port container throughput in the first seven months of this year increased 16.8 per cent, to 5.03 million 20 foot equivalent units (TEUs) from 4.3 million for the same period last year, says the Marine Department. Of the total throughput, Kwai Chung terminals handled 3.13 million TEUS, up 13.7 per cent from 2.75 million a year earlier. The number of containers handled mid-stream and elsewhere was up 17.1 per cent, from 1.36 million to 1.59 million this year. But the biggest increase - of 54.8 per cent - was recorded in the river trade, where volume went up from just under 218,000 TEUs last year to more than 321,000 this year. The Deputy Director of Marine, Ian Dale, said Hong Kong's average overall container throughput for the first seven months this year was about 17 per cent up on the same period last year. The percentage rise in July was 16.8 per cent. Mr Dale said: ''It is good news that our growth rate is remaining steady and generally in line with forecasts. 'The underlying demands of the trade are strong.' and there is no reason to doubt that this will continue in the months ahead.'' A Port Development Board spokesman said the increase in throughput was in line with expectations.