Unions have condemned proposals to sell off the Dover port, accusing privateers of acting against the national interest.
Companies seeking to cash in on any potential sale of the profitable publicly owned port have been lobbying the government over the matter.
In January 2010 the Dover Harbour Board submitted a proposal under the Ports Act 1991 to government “leading to the voluntary privatisation of the Port of Dover.”
A second public consultation on the scheme ended last week, with the final decision on privatisation to be expected this autumn.
Published accounts at the port from 2008 revealed that it made nearly £25 million in profits on revenues of around £61 million.
Dover has operated as a trust for 400 years with no shareholders so all the revenue goes back into the business.
Supporters of the privatisation scheme who include local Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke and singer Dame Vera Lynn (pictured) claim that it will create a “people’s port.
“Dover is the gateway to England and if it is not going to remain in the hands of the nation, it should remain in the hands of the community,” said Mr Elphicke.
The Tory MP claimed: “I’m encouraged that the ferry companies support this plan and the trade unions tell me they like it as well.”
But trade unions representing workers at the port contradicted the MP and pledged to fight the plans.
Unite national officer for docks and ferries Julia Long said: “We need a first-class sea port like Dover to be in public hands.
“There is simply too much at stake to leave the running of this vital link to Europe in the hands of those who will milk this national treasure for profits at the expense of the travelling public and British commerce.”
The union have lodged formal objections with the Department of Transport over the proposals.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow dismissed the “people’s port” suggestion as “nonsense,” pointing out that it was “being sold off to pay for the bankers’ bail-out.
“The Port of Dover is already owned by the British people as a national asset. Why would you want to buy something you already own?” he pointed out.
“RMT will continue to fight these plans.”