ABP argues that the expansion of its Southampton empire into Dibden Bay has been on the cards for decades and is vital for the health of the economy.

Ships and the sea gave birth to Southampton centuries ago. Today more than 10,000 jobs rely on Southampton docks and a further 4,000 are indirectly dependent upon them. Southampton is one of the UK's busiest cargo ports, handling more than 35 million tonnes annually. Altogether, the docks contribute more than £1.3 billion a year to the region.

ABP says the Dibden Bay scheme is a crucial and long-planned phase in local port development. It wants to see more container trade come to Southampton rather than benefit rival terminals such as London Gateway (Shell Haven) near Thurrock, Bathside Bay near Harwich, and Thamesport near the Isle of Grain.

Opponents say Dibden Bay would soon become a white elephant and that more efficient use of the present Southampton docks would fulfil demand for many years to come.

The 'jobs carrot' has been dangled before the local populace as a reason to accept Dibden Bay port, but opinions are divided on just how many jobs the scheme would bring.

ABP has promised nearly 3,000 - 1,800 for daily operations at the terminal and 1,100 construction jobs over the ten years it will take to build.

Opponents say some of these jobs would be merely relocations from the present docks and not extra posts at all.