Southampton port has been given the go ahead for a £150m expansion bringing 200 jobs.

After months of delays due to legal challenges and red tape a government agency has confirm the project to increase the size of berths at the container terminal can go-ahead.

It will ensure the container terminal’s future competitiveness and safeguard 800 direct jobs and 1,200 indirect jobs.

Port owner ABP wants to combine the existing berths 201 and 202 alongside an upgraded 500m quay wall.

An increase in the length of container ships has meant the current deep-sea berths, 204 to 207, can no longer handle four of the next generation of container vessels at once.

The Marine Management Organisation has this afternoon given the go ahead for dredging and upgrade works to begin.

ABP rival Hutchinson Ports, owners of Felixstowe, forced a reassessment of the scheme when it launched a judicial review of an earlier consent ago on environmental grounds.

Hampshire MPs have been lobbying the Government for a quick resolution to the hold-ups to avoid fatal delays for Southampton.

Port director Doug Morrison said the decision was vital so contracts could be awarded for work to start in tight time window this September.

Otherwise they could be delayed for another year.

The major works must be carried out between September and March to avoid disturbing migratory Atlantic salmon.

Mr Morrison said if a decision went beyond April it would have put the port in an “impossible situation.”

The MMO said it had approved licences for ABP Southampton for works and associated dredging at Berths 201 and 202 at the port of Southampton.

It said details of the licences and the evidence behind the MMO’s decision making process would be made available shortly .

Chris Lewis, managing director of DP World Southampton, the operator of Southampton’s container terminal, said: “This is fantastic news for Southampton and for our customers.

“The berth redevelopment will help to ensure that the port remains globally competitive and successful by being able to handle the largest container vessels afloat.

“Having this enhanced infrastructure capability is vital and underscores Southampton’s position as the first and last deep-sea port of call in Northern Europe for the Far East liner services, with its sheltered location, unique double high tide, first-class road and rail distribution links to the Midlands and market-leading service and productivity.

“We play a major role in the international trade supply chain, and our aim is to make the transition of goods through our terminal as seamless as possible for customers – the reconstructed quay will be a key driver for even greater productivity, with continued fast, reliable and secure services.

He added: “DP World Southampton will be working closely with ABP on the reconstruction and development of the berths in what is another exciting chapter for all of us here at the port.”

City MP John Denham said the consent was the result of hard work by ABP and its supporters.

But he said it was now “essential” for the Government to issue a warning against any other delaying challenges for commercial interest.

“Southampton should be the UK’s premier port for south east China and India trade and this investment is absolutely essential for us to hold on and build on that role,” he said.