HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy’s Fleet Flagship, has been alongside the Port of Sunderland since 6 July conducting her last affiliation visit to the city.
HMS Ocean’s crew is proud of her long-standing affiliation with Sunderland and the visit is poignant as the last chance to pay tribute to the city before leaving naval service next year.
Sailors and officers exercised their traditional Freedom of the City of Sunderland by parading over 200 members of the crew through the city’s streets accompanied by the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines.
The march, from the civic centre and to the war memorial, culminated with the Lady Mayor of Sunderland inspecting the guard and delivering an address before taking the salute as the parade then marched through the city.
Many Sunderland residents turned out to line the streets and witness the spectacle, applauding loudly and waving flags as the parade passed by.
The commanding officer of HMS Ocean, Captain Robert Pedre, said: “The ship has maintained a long and close affiliation with the city of which we are justly proud. Being able to exercise our Freedom of the City with this parade has indeed a great honour. I have been overwhelmed by the warm welcome my ship’s company have received from the people of Sunderland.’’
HMS Ocean leaves Sunderland today (Tuesday) after opening for a rare chance for the public to enjoy guided tours on board.
A Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) event was held yesterday for city secondary school pupils to give them an insight into engineering and applying science in a maritime environment.
HMS Ocean will deploy later this year as the flagship for the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2; a significant and long standing NATO commitment contributing to the security of the Mediterranean region.
Before arriving in the North East the ship completed a major maintenance period and a large-scale command and control joint exercise while sailing to Sunderland embarked with almost 200 staff officer as part of a joint exercise involving the British Army and RAF.
All this following a successful six-month operational deployment in the Mediterranean and the Gulf where HMS Ocean was deployed as part of the Joint Expeditionary Force and as the command platform for the first British commander of the US Combined Task Force 50.
HMS Ocean is the Royal Navy’s Fleet Flagship. A helicopter carrier and amphibious assault ship, the ship is designed to deliver troops to any action by helicopter or by landing craft. She can operate six helicopters on her flight deck with space in the hangar to hold, transport and maintain many more aircraft. The ship’s crew of 400 includes 9 Assault Squadron Royal Marines who operate four landing craft.
HMS Ocean is the Royal Navy’s largest operational ship and the crew trained and prepared to take on any tasking required of the their ship and is at five days’ notice to sail to anywhere in the world. HMS Ocean provides the UK Government’s most flexible and agile ship and is able to embark up to 1100 personnel and act as a command ship.