SOUTHAMPTON remains the country’s number one cruise port and contributes nearly £1billion to the UK economy every year, new figures have revealed.

The Port of Southampton contributes £990m to the country’s economy annually – including £714m to the Solent region, an independent report says.

It was compiled by consultants Arup to reveal the scale of the contribution made by Associated British Port’s (ABP) Port of Southampton to the regional and national economy. The report also shows it supports 14,730 jobs.

Around 1.7million passengers were welcomed into the port in 2013, the report confirms, which is more than any other cruise port in the UK.

Southampton has also been recognised as the number one cruise turnaround port in Europe.

More than £100m has been invested by ABP over the past five years to help drive growth and secure jobs in Southampton, and the organisation aims to spend a further £150m to develop the port.

The report shows Southampton is the fourth largest port in the UK and the leading port for car handling, with latest figures showing the port handled 745,000 vehicles last year.

Clive Thomas, ABP Southampton’s port manager, said: “These latest figures, of which we are extremely proud, underline yet again the vital contribution made to the regional and national economy by the Port of Southampton. Not only does it support thousands of jobs in the Solent region but thousands more across the country. Our cruise operation continues to grow, both in scale but in our reputation for customer service, and we are now the leading turnaround cruise port in Europe.

“Not only that, the port really is a critical part of the UK supply chain and an essential cog in the machine of the UK economy.”