HONG KONG handled 3.18 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) in the first four months of this year, up 20.1 per cent over the same period last year. By contrast, Singapore handled the equivalent of 3.2 million TEUs, 18 per cent more than in the same period last year. Announcing the latest container throughput figures, acting marine director Ian Dale said the territory's monthly container throughput increases showed sustained demand and demonstrated the port's ability to meet new demand. Kwai Chung container terminals handled 2.08 million TEUs, up 20 per cent over the same period. However, the stream sector saw a slight decline of 1.8 per cent, to 833,487 TEUs from 848,438 a year earlier. River trade saw a 54 per cent surge, to 264,097 TEUs from a small base of 171,530 TEUs last year. Mr Dale said there was every reason to believe that the steady growth in Hong Kong's throughput would continue. ''But without new handling facilities coming on line on schedule, the situation could well change by late next year,'' Mr Dale warned. ''The effect of this on the port must not be underestimated,'' he said. Terminal 8 at Kwai Chung has been completed, but no progress has been made on Terminal 9 since the development rights were awarded in 1992.