HONG Kong faces being a big loser when the ban on direct shipment of goods between China and Taiwan is lifted, despite government assurances that the damage will be small, says an industry executive. Once goods can be directed through Kaohsiung to the mainland, rather than through Hong Kong, it will be difficult for the territory to win the business back, says Gary Gilbert, vice-president of Sea-Land Service (Central Asia). He says the shipping industry is looking forward to the ban being lifted because it will ease congestion in Hong Kong. When that happens, most feeder ships transporting goods from China through Hong Kong will be diverted to Kaohsiung, Mr Gilbert said, adding that Kaohsiung has the ability to handle Hong Kong's excess capacity and its port administrators would welcome the business. Studies by the Hong Kong Government have concluded that not much cargo will be diverted from Hong Kong, but Mr Gilbert believes the loss of cargo will be substantial. Once the transfer happens it will not be reversed readily when new port facilities become available in Hong Kong, he says, referring to the construction of Terminals 9 and 10. China's provincial governments have recognised the importance of port development, but have had problems. Large ships cannot call at Huangpu, Shekou and Chiwan in the Pearl River delta, even though these ports are ideally situated in Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. However, even though they are of limited capacity, the ports are likely to attract smaller vessels, meaning losses of jobs and revenue for Hong Kong. Mr Gilbert expects neighbouring mainland ports to play a big part in China's trade, but does not believe they can support the projected annual growth of 1.4 million containers. He warned that if Hong Kong cannot handle further container growth after 1995, manufacturers in southern China will be affected. ''They will have to ship from the Pearl River to Taiwan, if they are allowed to, or to Japan or Singapore, bypassing Hong Kong,'' Mr Gilbert said.