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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 March, 2004, 12:26 GMT
City to honour crew of HMS Ocean
HMS Ocean
HMS Ocean has visited Sunderland on three occasions
History will be made when the crew of HMS Ocean become the first to be honoured with the freedom of the City of Sunderland.

Council bosses are being asked to formally adopt the vessel and confer the freedom of the city on its crew.

If approved, it would be the first such honour to be awarded since Sunderland became a city in 1992.

The last city awards were given to Sunderland-born reporter Kate Adie and HMS Arrow.

As a Borough, the Freedom of Sunderland was awarded on 161 occasions between 1901 and 1989.

The formal ceremony would take place on 26 July, during a visit by the ship to Sunderland for the city's international air show.

Council leader Bob Symonds said: "We are proud to have such a close relationship with the Royal Navy's biggest ship.

Strong connection

"We greatly appreciate the efforts made by all of the ship's crew over the past few years to develop such a successful affiliation with Sunderland.

"The award of freedom of the city will formally seal the relationship between HMS Ocean and the city of Sunderland and will recognise the contribution made by her officers and crew to the community spirit of the city."

HMS Ocean's affiliation with Sunderland was originally announced in July 1995, during construction of the 20,700-tonne amphibious helicopter carrier.

By the time of the ship's commissioning in September 1998, a strong connection had already been established, including visits by the mayor to see the ship being fitted out in Barrow and to attend the naming ceremony by the Queen.

HMS Ocean has visited Sunderland three times, in 1999, 2000 and 2003, each time being opened up to the public.

The ship's current captain, Chris Clayton, said: "We are extremely honoured to be considered for this award.

"In my relatively short time with the ship I have been impressed by the warmth of the people of Sunderland."

In pictures: HMS Ocean returns home
28 May 03  |  Photo Gallery
HMS Ocean arrives home
28 May 03  |  Devon
Close-knit world of HMS Ocean
26 Mar 03  |  Middle East
Fact file: HMS Ocean
07 Jan 03  |  UK

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