THE MAN in charge of the Port of Southampton has revealed he is to stand down.

Doug Morrison this morning announced his intention to retire in December, after almost nine years in charge of the port.

He will be replaced by Nick Ridehalgh, who is currently port director short sea ports at ship owner, Associated British Ports (ABP).

Since Mr. Morrison's appointment in 2005, the Port of Southampton has cemented its position as the UK's premier cruise port, with passenger numbers swelling from 500,000 in 2004 to 1.7 million in 2013.

The port has become the most efficient container port in Europe and is on course to become the UK's number one for car handling.

Mr. Morrison has overseen huge investment at the port, including £45 million for new cruise facilities and over £100 million for improvements to the port's container terminal.

Mr. Morrison retires after 45 years working for ABP.

Before working in Southampton, he worked in a number of ports across the ABP group, including Hull, Goole and Ayr, where he began his career in 1968.

In 2005, Mr. Morrison was also appointed to ABP's Holdings Board. As a result, he has played a central role in the wider leadership of ABP and its unique network of 21 ports handling around one quarter of the nation's seaborne trade.

Mr. Morrison said, "I have enjoyed a fantastic career at ABP and it has been a great privilege to lead the Port of Southampton, widely regarded as the jewel in ABP's crown.

“During this special year when the port celebrates its 175th anniversary, I am proud to leave the port in great shape, ready to look forward to its continuing success over many more years to come.

"I would like to give my sincere thanks to all the colleagues I have worked with over the years, including the team we have here in Southampton. None of the port's success could have been achieved without their hard work and dedication. I would also like to thank all of the people across this great city who have supported their port, the lifeblood of the local economy and the key to a prosperous future.

"Finally, I would like to wish my successor, Nick Ridehalgh, all the very best in taking the business forward. He will do a great job."

ABP Chief Executive, James Cooper, said, "Doug has made an incredible contribution to ABP and to the ports industry over many years of service. We all owe him a great deal and I would like to wish him a very long and happy retirement.

"Nick comes to the port with considerable experience and having demonstrated outstanding leadership of our Short Sea Ports business. His appointment reflects my determination to ensure the Port of Southampton continues to go from strength to strength."

ABP Port Director Short Sea Ports, Nick Ridehalgh said, "I am very much looking forward to working with my colleagues to grow our business, building on Southampton’s critical role in supporting the nation’s trade. Success for the Port of Southampton is success for the City of Southampton.”