The ports around the Solent see some of the most diverse types of shipping in the UK. Southampton is the largest cruise port along with many millions of tons per year of containers being handled per year. Plans are in progress to increase the passenger and container capacity. It is also a major import/export terminal for vehicles and has bulk terminals for grain and scrap. In common with many other ports, Southampton handles little general cargo, but there is a healthy trade in the transport of luxury yachts. Container ships have brought about the demise of the general cargo vessel, but bulky and oversize cargoes are now carried along with the vehicles on car carriers.
A vast oil refining and chemical complex has grown up around the town of Fawley, and the marine terminal there sees hundreds of crude carriers and product tankers calling there every year.
Portsmouth is the home to many of the UK’s naval fleet and preparations are underway to receive the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers. The commercial docks handle a growing number of small cruise ships, refrigerated cargoes and of course a constant stream of continental ferry traffic.
There are many designated dredging areas around the Isle of Wight, and there is local fleet of suction dredgers which dredge aggregates for the building trade. Along with the constant stream of ferry traffic to the Isle of Wight, let alone the thousands of pleasure craft – the Solent is a very busy place.