Bob Goldfield said the sell off was 'part of the evolution of the port'.
The board of the Port of Dover is pressing ahead with sell-off plans despite some opposition from residents.
The board outlined plans to seek private investment at a public meeting at Dover Town Hall.
Opponents of the sale have said they fear jobs will be lost, but port managers said the sell-off was vital to the regeneration of the area.
The management has applied to the government to sell the port and is now awaiting approval.
The Port of Dover is the UK's busiest roll-on roll-off port and the largest passenger ferry port in northern Europe.
It has been operating as a trust for 400 years and, with no shareholders, all revenue goes back into the port to redevelop it.
The board said it hoped a private investor would channel funds into a charitable trust to help regenerate the town.
Bob Goldfield, the chief executive of Dover Harbour Board, said: "Four hundred years ago, it was not a car ferry port, it was not a ferry port.
"Things change, and this is just another part of the evolution of the port."
Labour's MP for Dover Gwyn Prosser, who has opposed the move, said: "The fact is there are other ways of bringing in investment without going to a full privatisation, and no matter which way they dress it up, this is full privatisation."
People at the meeting expressed strong views about the changes
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