Multi-national crew of Norwegian frigate the Roald Amundsen excited for a weekend in Belfast
Titanic Belfast, Game Of Thrones and Van Morrison among the eagerly anticipated sights for the crew
The Norwegian commander of a NATO fleet of warships has spoken of his excitement at seeing the birthplace of his favourite singer on his first visit to Belfast.
Commodore Ole Morten Sandquist led two shops from Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1) to Belfast on Friday morning; his own vessel, the Norwegian frigate Roald Amundsen and Spanish frigate ESPS Reina Sofia.
They will remain at Pollock Dock this weekend while their crew enjoy a brief break after completing the UK’s tri-service multinational exercise Joint Warrior 17-1 (JW 171) off the north west coast of Scotland.
During that exercise the ships worked with nearly 30 highly capable warships and submarines from more than 10 allied and partnering countries.
The idea of the exercise Joint Warrior is to provide a range of scenarios and unique challenges to the command team, and to each ship, giving the ships and crews opportunities to sharpen their war fighting capabilities.
The 160-strong crew on the Roald Amundsen includes several different nationalities including British, American, German, Danish, Belgian as well as Norwegian.
Lord Mayor Brian Kingston was among the special guests invited for a banquet on the Norwegian ship on Friday night, while the sea cadets are set to be among visitors on Saturday.
Commodore Sandquist told the Belfast Telegraph he is looking forward to exploring where Van Morrison grew up.
"My predecessor was in Belfast last year and said it was a great town to visit, this is my first time in Belfast or in Northern Ireland," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“I am planning to visit the Titanic Centre, I would also like to visit Carrickfergus Castle, it is beautiful.
“I have two kids, they are teenagers, and if I can brag about seeing the Game Of Thrones set, I will be a very cool dad.
“And of course Belfast is the birth place of my favourite singer Van Morrison so I very much hope to see the house where he was born.”
He has served some 33 years in the Norwegian armed forces. He joined up after completing 15 months of national service, adding that he loves his job and the places it takes him.
"I am 50 years old and I have served for 33 years, mostly in the Navy, since I left high school," he said.
"I started in the Navy as a conscript and found it to be a very attractive career, seeing new places all around the world.
"I love it and I will be here as long as I can.
"I love being at sea and working with young talented people. Commanding ships is great, it is always very interesting and challenging. It is a dream come true."
Commanding so many nationalities working together on one ship may seem like a daunting challenging but Commodore Sandquist there are more benefits than negatives.
One of the youngest of the crew on board the Roald Amundsen - named after the famous Norwegian explorer who was the first person to reach the South Pole - is Even Saguik (21) from the north west of Norway.
Although he said he loves being at sea, he is looking forward to dry land after spending 90% of his year so far on the ship.
"I have served just one year but I enjoy it very much," he said.
"It is nice to be at sea and I am excited for my first visit to the UK. I am looking forward to going on to dry land to relax and see around Belfast."
SNMG1 is one of the NATO’s four Standing Naval Maritime Groups, multinational integrated forces that provides the alliance with a continuous maritime capability for operations and other activities in peacetime and periods of crisis and conflicts.