KWAI Chung's lack of space may chase shippers to rivals' terminals in the region. This is the fear expressed by Hong Kong's two port operators, Hong Kong International Terminals and Modern Terminals Ltd. Clive Flegg, executive director of operations at Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT), said: ''If the port here can't service cargo from China, then the ports in the mainland will start to service it. Lines will start looking elsewhere.'' This would be a blow to operators because Chinese cargo made up ''60 to 70 per cent of our business'', Mr Flegg said. ''There has been a huge increase in the last five years. ''The Government's rolling five-year figure for growth is about 14 per cent, and translates into Kwai Chung needing a new berth and support area every six months.'' HIT has a 60 per cent market share at Kwai Chung, operating three terminals and 10 berths. Andrew Milliken, general manager of terminal operations for Modern Terminals Ltd (MTL), said the two port operators handled five million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) last year. The growth in throughput to August this year had been 13 per cent. ''These figures make the annual throughput per hectare of land at Kwai Chung one of the largest in the world,'' he said. Throughput rose 13.3 per cent to 3.67 million TEUs between January and August, up from 3.24 million TEUs a year earlier. Mr Flegg said: ''The basic problem for the port at present is how to accommodate the growth we are experiencing. ''People tend to think that container throughput is capacity-driven - that you build a terminal, there's capacity and that attracts cargo. But if you don't build the terminal the cargo is still growing and somehow needs to be handled.'' Terminal Eight will be used as soon as it is built. This and the dispute between Hong Kong and China over the building of Container Terminal Nine (CT9), which is unlikely to be available before the second quarter of 1996, has forced HIT and MTL to look at other ways to alleviate pressure on capacity at Kwai Chung. Mr Milliken said: ''The delay in the completion of CT9 will require contingency measures. ''We are, therefore, urging that land be made available in the back-up area of Terminal Eight, and, later, CT9, so that efficiency can be maintained in the new terminals and at existing facilities. ''Back-up land is needed for the short-term storage of containers, thereby maximising the quay-face capacity at our terminals.'' Mr Flegg added: ''The Government would have to prioritise the land that is being reclaimed now - the West Kowloon reclamation Route 3 plans, for instance. ''There are other competing priorities, each important in the chain, but the fundamental point is the port itself has got to be able to move.'' Another problem facing operators is keeping traffic around the port moving. Mr Milliken said the transport infrastructure in Kwai Chung was inadequate under peak conditions. To overcome this problem the terminal operators would like to encourage the transport of containers to and from the Pearl River delta by barge. They also wanted the Government to provide waterfront land for barge traffic near the terminals. ''Any method of reducing the quantity of containers moved by road will be beneficial to the port and its surrounding urban area,'' Mr Milliken said. The two port operators provide round-the-clock service, but the three road crossings between Hong Kong and China do not. This means large convoys of vehicles carrying cargo from China arrive at the port every evening, causing congestion. Mr Milliken said keeping the border crossings open would reduce pressure at terminals, crossings and roads. ''We would like to see this on a trial basis of two or three lanes to monitor the result.'' Mr Flegg said a change in ''restrictive'' licensing practices in China would improve efficiency. Most trucks were restricted to one named driver who was required to use a specific border crossing in a specific truck, he said. Empty containers were banned from remaining in China, had to return to Hong Kong and then go back to the mainland to pick up cargo, he said.