The chief executive of ABP, the company which owns the Port of Southampton, is to step down.

James Cooper has informed the board of his wish leave the post and the port giant has now launched a search for his successor, who is expected to be appointed in 2018.

ABP Chairman Dr Philip Nolan paid tribute to Mr Cooper, who has spent ten years on the board of the company.

"He has overseen a transformation in the business, ensuring ABP is well placed to meet the challenges and capitalise on the opportunities presented in the future,” said Dr Nolan.

Mr Cooper became chief executive and executive director of the board of Associated British Ports Holdings in April 2013.

Prior to this he had been a non-executive director from May 2007.

He has served as the chairman of the UK Major Ports Group since November 2015.

Mr Cooper said: “After 10 years in the business I felt the time was right to begin discussions about my succession.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the great team at ABP and welcoming my successor when they are appointed next year."

ABP is the UK’s leading ports operator with 21 ports and other transport related businesses.

The company contributes £5.6 billion to the UK economy every year and supports 84,000 jobs.