A man whose experience is in running airports is the new director of the Port of Southampton.

Alastair Welch, who has extensive experience aviation sector, including Heathrow’s Terminal 4 and London Southend Airport, will shortly be joining ABP as Director, Southampton.

He begins his job on May 9, taking over from Nick Ridehalgh.

Mr Welch started his career with BAA Plc and worked in senior positions at a number of airports.

He was managing director of London Southend Airport for seven years and oversaw its transformation from provincial airfield into London’s de facto sixth airport, with more 200 passenger flights per week. At Southend Mr Welch masterminded a £150m development programme which included building a runway extension and road diversion, a new control tower, a four-star hotel, passenger terminal and railway station as well as securing a new London base for EasyJet.

He left the airport in 2013 and in 2014 founded the airline and airport consultancy AV8.

Mr Welch said of his new role: “This is a tremendous opportunity and I am looking forward to working with my new colleagues to build on Southampton’s track record of success.

ABP chief executive James Cooper said: “Alastair brings extensive operational, business development and customer service skills and experience to ABP. I am confident that under his guidance the Port of Southampton will reach new heights.”

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“Southampton is a world renowned port that plays a vital role in the economy of the region and the UK as a whole. I feel enormously privileged to have been asked to lead the team here to ensure it continues to thrive."

His predecessor Nick Ridehalgh, who has been in charge at Southanpton for just over two years, announced that he would be leaving the company last November.

Mr Ridehalgh, who has been with ABP since said: “There is a fantastic team at the port and I am proud of everything we have achieved together. I wish Alastair every success. I leave confident that the Port of Southampton is set for a bright future.”

Mr Ridehalgh has presided over a period of considerable growth in all of the port’s main trades including containers, cars and cruise.

The £112 million expansion of Southampton Container Terminal and the associated dredge of the port’s approach channel was completed under his leadership, as was ABP’s acquisition of Marchwood Industrial Estate earlier this year.

He also led the team that negotiated an extension to DPW’s license to operate Southampton Container Terminal .

Mr Ridehalgh will be returning to the north-west where his family is based.

James Cooper commented: “I would like to thank Nick for his service to ABP and the Port of Southampton and wish him well for the future.

The Port of Southampton is the fourth largest port in the UK and the leading port for car handling and the cruise industry and is home to the UK’s second largest container terminal handling more than 1.5 million containers each year.