P & O Containers of Britain has become the second big container shipping company to sign up to use the new deepwater Yantian port in southern China. P & O is teaming up with Maersk Line to provide a weekly service from Yantian to Europe. Maersk recently signed a user contract with Yantian International Container Terminal (YICT). Maersk's parent, A P Moller, will take a strategic stake in YICT, which is managed by Hongkong International Terminals in a joint venture in which it holds a 70 per cent stake. The service is tentatively scheduled to start next Wednesday using a vessel of 2,800 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units). Both lines were readying their ships to inaugurate the service, but there were indications yesterday that everything was not going as planned at the Maersk end. If a Maersk ship was not ready in time, P & O could become the first non-Chinese shipping line to provide direct container service between Europe and China. P & O regional general manager Nick Henry said both lines had signed agency agreements with Panavico, the state-run company that has a full licence to operate forwarding business by land, sea and air nationwide. Port rotation on the new service will be Yantian-Hong Kong-Singapore-Colombo-Jeddah-Malta. From Malta, a dedicated feeder service will connect to the Italian ports of Genoa, Naples and Livorno, providing a fast, regular and reliable service to and from the Far East. P & O also announced its intention to start calling at Shekou Container Terminal, which it partly owns, in China once the night navigational requirements of the port had been resolved. Mr Henry said this was expected to happen by September. As part of the new service P & O's direct call at Belgium will be switched from Antwerp to Zeebrugge. Mr Henry said the reintroduction of the call at Jeddah would enable P & O to once again offer this service on its own vessels to exporters in the Far East.