The bonds between HMAS Melbourne (III) and her namesake city were reaffirmed when the ship’s company exercised their Freedom of Entry for the final time before the ship decommissions later this year.

More than 180 officers and sailors marched from Southbank up Swanston Street past the iconic Flinders Street Station to Town Hall and answered a ceremonial challenge from Superintendent Peter O’Neill last week.

Exercising Freedom of Entry is a long-standing tradition for naval vessels wishing to proudly enter a city with swords drawn, drums beating, bands playing and colours flying.

The ship's company of HMAS Melbourne is challenged during its Freedom of Entry. Photo: Leading Seaman Kieran Dempsey

Melbourne’s commanding officer, Commander Marcus Buttler, said it was always a special occasion between a ship and the city that shares her name, but in this case it was particularly poignant.

“Sailing into Melbourne feels like coming home for many of our ships built nearby at Williamstown, but to bring HMAS Melbourne back to the city where she was built, for the last time, is an incredible honour,” Commander Buttler said.

“Over the past 27 years, this ship has carried the name Melbourne around the world and I hope the people of Melbourne are as proud of this ship and what she has achieved as we are to be associated with this great city.”

The ship’s company were joined by the Royal Australian Navy Band and greeted by the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mike Noonan.

HMAS Melbourne sails past the iconic 12 Apostles off the coast of Victoria. Photo: Able Seaman Bonny Gassner

Melbourne is the fifth of six Adelaide-class frigates and the last in service.

Commissioned in 1992, she has sailed more than 900,000 nautical miles throughout her service life.

She deployed to the Middle East eight times and earned battle honours for her service in East Timor and the Persian Gulf.

She recently completed a four-month deployment through Asia, including conducting international maritime surveillance operations to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution sanctions against North Korea.