HONG KONG retained its position as the world's leading container port in the first six months of the year, thanks to the booming mainland economy. The territory handled 5.11 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units), up 22.6 per cent on the 4.17 million TEUs handled in the first half of last year. By contrast, arch rival Singapore handled 4.9 million TEUs in the first six months, up more than 16 per cent on the back of buoyant regional traffic. According to Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) figures, total container throughput during the first half of last year stood at 4.2 million TEUs, which was higher than Hong Kong's. Hong Kong has been the world's busiest container port for the past two years. Last year, the territory handled 9.2 million TEUs, compared with 9.04 million TEUs handled by Singapore. Rough estimates prepared by the Port Development Board and Marine Department show throughput in Hong Kong will reach 10.8 million TEUs this year, boosted by growing mainland economy. PSA expects a 15 to 17 per cent increase in throughput to up to 10.6 million TEUs for the full year. In Singapore's case, the likely increase will result from robust growth in Southeast Asia, the opening of the Vietnam's economy, economic liberalisation in India, a recovery in Australia and the rapid expansion of China's economy. In the first four months of the year, Singapore's throughput was slightly higher than Hong Kong's. But port officials pointed out that while Singapore's throughput was constant throughout the year, Hong Kong's tended to grow in the latter half. Hong Kong saw growth escalate on the back of the continuing economic boom in southern China and recorded 4.17 million TEUs in the first five months of the year. About 60 per cent of Hong Kong's throughput is either destined for, or comes from, China. In May, Hong Kong became the first port in the world to handle more than 900,000 TEUs in a single month. Throughput in the month totalled 985,000 TEUs, up 26.8 per cent on the same month last year. Total throughput for Singapore in the first five months was 4.05 million TEUs, an increase of 16.9 per cent on the same period last year. Marine director Allan Pyrke said the port had been able to cope with the growth in traffic volume partly because of the early completion of Container Terminal 8 (CT8) on Stonecutters Island. The fourth berth of CT8, originally scheduled for completion in February, began taking vessels in July. This enabled Kwai Chung terminals to increase throughput by 29.4 per cent to a total of 3.34 million TEUs in the first six months. By contrast, mid-stream operations rose by only one per cent during the period to total 1.33 million TEUs. The biggest percentage increase was in the number of containers handled by river trade, up 65.5 per cent to 424,585 TEUs in the first six months.