SOUTHAMPTON is to be the home of the UK’s first Port Economic Partnership – an initiative aimed at boosting the city’s role as a vital hub for international trade.

Officials say the move will help safeguard Southampton’s position as the UK’s number one export port.

The initiative by the Department for Transport ,in partnership with ABP’s Port of Southampton, was launched at London International Shipping Week yesterday, on board the lightship NLV Pharos.

Maritime minister Nusrat Ghani said: “I am delighted to announce the first Port Economic Partnership with the Port of Southampton.

“This fantastic endeavour will be key to supporting the ambitions of government, helping to cement the UK as a leading maritime nation.

“Not only this, but this project will also allow the Port of Southampton to drive sector growth, enhance its offer to customers and serve its local community.”

Alastair Welch, ABP’s regional director for Southampton, said: “We are proud and excited to be joining the government in launching the UK’s first Port Economic Partnership.

“It’s great to see the government put maritime at the heart of the nation’s economic future.

“This is another fantastic initiative capable of turbo-charging trade and boosting the nation’s exports.

“ABP looks forward to working collaboratively with government to deliver the benefits which the partnership will bring to support the Port of Southampton’s future growth,” he added.

“Ultimately, this important step will safeguard our position as the UK’s number one export port and a leading gateway for international trade, making significant contributions to jobs and the UK economy, both regionally and nationally.”

The idea of Port Economic Partnerships was outlined in the government’s Maritime 2050 strategy earlier this year as a way to create a strong business environment for ports to thrive.

The partnerships will focus on leveraging the maximum benefit from public and private sector investment and ensuring planning processes are as efficient as possible.

ABP will work closely with the government to trial the concept.

The government believes Port Economic Partnerships will encourage more investment by ports in new freight-handling facilities and other infrastructure needed to maintain the UK’s position as a leading maritime nation.

Public and private sector organisations will work together at local, regional and national level to improve links with global trading partners ready for a post-Brexit world.

ABP Southampton handles £40billion of UK exports every year, making it the country’s number one export port. It contributes £2.5bn a year to the economy and supports 45,600 jobs nationally, handling 14million tonnes of commodities each year.