The driver of a crane that collapsed at Southampton Docks this morning has been freed from the wreckage and taken to hospital with life threatening injuries.

All shipside operations at the container terminal have today been suspended until further notice. However landside operations will resume at midday.

Campbell Mason, the terminal's managing director said: "It is too early to determine the cause of the incident. "We will of course be working cooperatively with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and an independent investigation will be undertaken.”

Emergency services were called to Southampton Container Port at around 5.20am this morning after the crane’s boom collapsed onto a container ship while loading.

Fire services, coastguard and South Central Ambulance Service were all called to Dock Gate 20.

Ambulance crews used ladders to scale the top of the ship’s crumpled containers where the driver lay trapped inside the metal wreckage of his cab and collapsed boom.

He was eventually put on a spinal board and winched to safety by Solent Coastguard’s helicopter and transferred to the dockside where a waiting ambulance took him to Southampton General Hospital.

It is believed the container handling crane that collapsed is the dock’s number six crane.

Archive CCTV footage of a large crane falling on to the deck of a ship at Southampton Container Terminal in January 2008.

It was loading the NYK Themis container carrier when the accident happened. The Health and Safety Executive has been informed.

The drama happened more than a year after another crane collapsed on to a container ship at the docks.

No one was hurt in the incident last January which saw the boom of the crane crashing down on to the Kyoto Express as stunned workers looked on.

On that occasion most of the port was shut down for weeks afterwards while health and safety checks were carried out.