ITALIAN flag-carrier Lloyd Triestino is likely to set up an office in Shanghai this year, according to Antonio Giaretta, general manager of the company's Hong Kong regional co-ordination office. The company, which was set up in 1836, started doing business with Shanghai, through Hong Kong, in 1881. The 2,044-tonne Berenice was the first Lloyd Triestino vessel to sail into Shanghai in 1892. Mr Giaretta said there had been ''very strong'' growth in the transshipment of container traffic from China on its Far East-West Mediterranean (Medway) service. ''The plan is to have a more direct presence in China,'' he said. ''We will start with an office in Shanghai and then look at other leading cities.'' He said the focus would be on southern China, particularly the Pearl River delta. The Medway service, provided in association with Evergreen of Taiwan, was started in December last year with a 10-day frequency with seven vessels of 3,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units). Lloyd Triestino deploys two ships built last year - Nuova Trieste and Nuovo Genova - on the service. The Evergreen ships are Ever Grace, Ever Gifted, Ever Genius, Ever Govern and Ever Garden - all built in 1984 and 1985. Mr Giaretta said more vessels were being introduced to increase the frequency to weekly by the end of next month. Lloyd Triestino's China feeder network covers the ports of Dalian, Xingang, Qingdao, Nantong, Nanjing, Zhangjiagang, Shanghai, Ningbo and Huangpu. Mr Giaretta said the volume of cargo from China was not large enough to warrant direct calls by the company's vessels. In 1980, Lloyd Triestino started running its own direct conventional service between Mediterranean and Chinese ports. This followed an agreement between the Italian and Chinese maritime authorities. However, the service was suspended in 1986 due to progressive containerisation and lack of return cargo from China. Mr Giaretta said Lloyd Triestino was the only Italian company offering a service between Europe and the Far East. The company also operates services between Australia and Asian ports. It employs about 800 people, including seamen. The average age of its eight modern container ships, which range in size from 1,500 to 3,000 TEUs, is three years. These ships carried more than 160,000 TEUs last year, containing more than two million tonnes of cargo. Ships on the Medway service carried about 70,000 TEUs (about 900,000 tonnes) last year. The company's subsidiaries include shipping agencies and logistics companies. Mr Giaretta said that through its extensive agency network, Lloyd Triestino was capable of covering practically any destination worldwide. Its sister company, Italia Line, provides extensive services in North and South America. Lloyd Triestino has already set up joint-venture offices in Singapore and Thailand and is holding talks with potential partners in Malaysia.