Sunderland City Council is supporting the event organised by national charity Seafarers UK, to raise public awareness of the Merchant Navy's massive contribution to the life of the 'island nation' of Great Britain.

Merchant Navy Day (3 September) was first held in 2000, with the 'Fly the Red Ensign' campaign launched in 2015 to remind people of its national significance and encourage their support.

Sunderland City Council is one of many local authorities across the country invited to raise the flag in support of Merchant Navy Day and this is the third consecutive year it has supported this day.

The Red Ensign was raised at Sunderland Civic Centre by the Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Doris MacKnight accompanied by Deputy Lieutenant for Tyne and Wear, Colonel Varn Jassal TD, and Captain Stephen Healy of Trinity House in Newcastle.

The Mayor of Sunderland, Cllr Doris MacKnight said: "I am proud to represent the people of our city at this event, and honoured to raise the famous Red Ensign on their behalf.

"Sunderland is a city by the sea with a rich maritime heritage, and home to a community that recognises and appreciates the contribution made by the Merchant Navy to all our lives.

"I hope people will support Merchant Navy Day, and be encouraged to pay their own personal tributes by seeing the Red Ensign flying proudly at the civic centre over the weekend."

Before the flag-raising, the Mayor invited Colonel Varn Jassal, TD, Deputy Lieutenant for Tyne and Wear read out a message from HRH The Earl of Wessex KG, GCVO who is the President of Seafarers UK which raises funds to help seafarers and their families in need.

Captain Stephen Healy of Trinity House in Newcastle then said a few words about the Merchant Navy, and the service and sacrifice of all those who have sailed under the Red Ensign.

Graham Hall, Chairman of the Sunderland Armed Forces Network (S.A.F.N), said: "Serving Military and Veterans regard The Merchant Navy as much as the armed forces as the Royal Navy, Army or Royal Airforce.

"The Merchant Navy has repeatedly shown their bravery in support our armed forces in conflict. They are respected for this role they have carried out multiple times in the past and the role they still carry out in support of our armed forces operations today. It is only right we commemorate their sacrifice and service."