Royal Navy's flagship HMS Ocean begins its final journey out of its home port of Sunderland

The Royal Navy's flagship has left its home port of Sunderland for the final time ahead of its rumoured sale to a foreign navy. HMS Ocean, the largest ship in the British fleet and its only helicopter carrier, is set to be decommissioned next year before possibly joining the Brazilian navy. The move leaves Britain incapable of mounting any major amphibious warfare operations until HMS Queen Elizabeth enters military service in 2020. Ahead of its historic departure, visitors lined the dock in Sunderland as the city bid a last farewell to the ship and its 200-strong compliment of officers and crew.

HMS Ocean, a 28,000-ton vessel originally commissioned in Plymouth in 1998, took part in the start of the Iraq War in 2003 and served in Libya in 2011. The ship, which has a top speed of 18 knots - or 21 mph - can accommodate almost 1,300 people and 40 vehicles. In April, the Ministry of Defence said 'a number of options' were being considered for the future of Ocean, adding it was 'too soon' to discuss what those options might be. There is enough space on board for 18 helicopters, including the Apache, the Merlin Mk3 and the Chinook Mk2.

However it is set to be replaced by the £3.5billion HMS Queen Elizabeth, which set sail from Rosyth in Scotland last month to start her first sea trials. Measuring 920-feet long, it is so large its captain described it as the UK's new 'sea base' - which will take the fight to any adversaries across the globe. The impressive carrier, capable of carrying up to 40 aircrafts, is due to complete its first voyage to its home in Portsmouth, Hants, in the autumn.


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