PLANS to turn around a loss-making port will be discussed next week.

Sunderland City Council's cabinet is to meet on Wednesday to discuss taking on a private partner to run the troubled Port of Sunderland.

The proposals are to consolidate the cargo operation on part of the 100-hectare site, with some of the other land to be developed as either a business park or industrial estate.

Phil Barrett, the council's director of development and regeneration, said: "We have a port at present that is running in deficit. We need someone who can come in and bring their expertise."

During the past few years, volumes at the council-run port have slipped to just one million tonnes of cargo a year.

The nearby Port of Tyne, which is operated by a trust, handled 2.5 million tonnes of cargo last year and saw profits soar by nearly 50 per cent to £4m. The ports of Hartlepool and Tees, operated by PD Teesport, handle more than 50 million tonnes a year.

Only 54 people are employed at the Wearside port, while Tyneside has 425 staff.

Under the plans, operations at Sunderland will be consolidated on to Corporation Quay, with room to expand provided by Commissioner's Quay and possibly Greenwell's Quays.

Northumbrian Water will keep its Hendon sewage treatment works at Hudson Dock.

But the rest of the site will be marketed to developers in a bid to attract more jobs.

Mr Barrett said that, subject to council approval, he hoped to have a private company operating the port within two years. The development of the rest of the site will take up to 15 years.

Bob Symonds, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: "This is the beginning of a process that we intend will lead to further giant steps forward in developing Sunderland."