The decision by the government not to give the go-ahead to Dibden Bay will have "extremely serious'' effects on Southampton and the city's docks, said Andrew Kent, the local ABP port director.

Shock waves of disbelief went through the docks as news of the government's decision spread and many port workers were gravely concerned for the future prosperity of the port.

"The decision not to give ABP's Port of Southampton the go-ahead for its expansion plans to handle growth in the UK's international trade will certainly result in a loss of job opportunities in the area and will have a worryingly adverse effect on the local and regional economies," Mr Kent added.

"The future shape of the port will now be significantly different to that of the expanded Port of Southampton which we had planned for.

"However, going forward, we will continue to focus on growing the port's business in areas where there is potential to strengthen our trade base.''