SITC International Holdings, the Hong Kong-listed mainland shipping and logistics company, has teamed up with Singapore's Neptune Orient Lines to help operate a two-berth container terminal in Qingdao. The complex, which will be able to handle 1.5 million teu (20-foot equivalent units) a year, is due to become operational by the end of this year. It is the first time SITC International and NOL have operated a mainland container terminal either in joint venture or individually. The two companies have formed a Singapore-registered joint venture, APL-SITC Terminal Holdings, to partner with Qingdao Qianwan United Container Terminal to operate the facility. That company is 50 per cent owned by China Merchants Holdings International, while an 8 per cent interest is held by Cosco Pacific. The terminal company was established in December 2009 to operate and manage nine berths, covering 3.16 kilometres, that were already under construction or planned. NOL said it had invested US$25.8 million in the joint venture, while SITC estimated the total investment in the two-berth complex at 2.1 billion yuan (HK$2.5 billion). The facility, which has a total berth length of 660 metres, will be mainly used by container ships operated by SITC and APL, Neptune Orient's container shipping division. Justifying its investment in the terminal, NOL said north China was a key market for APL, while Qingdao was the mainland's fifth-largest container port and the largest in northern China. APL said the dedicated container terminal would help improve the schedule reliability of its vessels. Similar sentiments were expressed by Yang Shaopeng, SITC International chairman, who said: 'It is able to meet our burgeoning integrated business development needs and will help better ensure that our container vessels arrive and depart on schedule.' SITC International mainly operates intra-Asian shipping services using a fleet of about 50 owned and chartered vessels. The company agreed to splash out US$36.2 million at the end of April on an order for two 1,100 teu feeder container ships that will be built by the mainland's Yangfan shipbuilding group for delivery by June 2012. The deal included options, which must be declared by the end of this year, for up to six extra vessels. The shipbuilding orders were placed as SITC saw net profit rise 7.3 per cent to US$25.1 million for the first three months of this year.