Singapore's port authority is spreading its interests into China with a preliminary agreement to develop and manage container facilities at the main northeastern Port of Dalian.

A detailed feasibility study is under way. Subject to its findings, and to final approval by Chinese authorities, the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) will in effect take over the Dayaowan container terminal. No financial details were disclosed.With capacity of 60 million metric tons a year, Dalian, at the southern tip of Liaoning province, ranks second in volume terms in China after Shanghai. It is one of several ports intended to have capacity of 100 million tons by the end of the decade.

Its container business ranks fourth in the country, with a tally last year equivalent to 305,000 20-foot boxes, an increase of 20 percent on 1993. The figure is expected to hit 400,000 TEUs this year.

Dayaowan, about five miles from the city and its economic- and technological-development zone, has two container berths opened in 1993 with funding by the World Bank. Three more are under construction.

Shipping-industry people say it will be one of the few in China able to handle containerships of 6,000-TEU capacity when all improvements are made.

"Dalian has well-developed sea, land and air transport networks that can provide reliable distribution of cargo passing through the port," said Ng Cheng, the PSA's director of operations.

"Another advantage is its economic- and technological-development zone, which is among the largest in China, with 1,000 foreign and 6,000 local firms," he said.

"With these strong linkages and the economic activity of the hinterland, we believe Dalian has the potential to be a premier port," Mr. Ng said.

Dalian is ice- and silt-free. It is the gateway to and from China's northeastern industrial heartland as well as Inner Mongolia, particularly for South Korea and Japan.

The Dalian deal will be PSA's first significant overseas venture. "This proposed investment is in line with PSA's drive to become an important international player in port and logistics operations," said David Lim, chief executive of the government-run agency.

The PSA is also exploring opportunities in India, Southeast Asia and other countries in Asia, Mr. Lim said, without giving details.

Its Specs Consultants Pte. Ltd. subsidiary won a contract a decade ago to provide consultancy services at Tianjin, another of China's large northern ports. It was the first to have a purpose-built container terminal.

Map Services Pte. Ltd., another PSA unit, worked on computerization of the container yard and equipment-management systems at Xiamen, a special economic zone in the southeast.

At home, the PSA on Sunday announced contracts worth S$152 million ($108 million) to a consortium of Keppel Corp. Ltd. and Mitsui & Co. of Japan for construction of part of a new container terminal at Pasir Panjang.

Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. won a S$95 contract to build 16 overhead bridge cranes.

Keppel Engineering Pte. Ltd., Mitsui and Hock Lian Seng Engineering Pte. Ltd. won a S$57.5 million contract for foundation work and superstructures for the cranes, which are due to be delivered beginning late next year.

The PSA said the same companies are nominated subcontractors for the Keppel Mitsui consortium for foundation work and superstructure for two other projects costing S$36 million.