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Marine / Wreath laid as crew of Norwegian minesweeper ship take time off in Shetland

Photo: BBC Radio Shetland

A NORWEGIAN navy minesweeper ship currently berthed in Lerwick on a stop-over could inspect the seas around Shetland for any wartime ordnance – if time allows.

The NATO ship Otra has been docked at Victoria Pier since arriving in Lerwick on Wednesday evening.

On Friday afternoon some of the crew laid a wreath at the Shetland Bus memorial in Scalloway.

The mine sweeper M351 in Lerwick harbour on Thursday. Photo: Shetland News

The main purpose of the ship is to clear the sea of mines and other explosives, and commanding officer Kåre Schiøtz said the vessel could potentially search areas around Shetland.

“If we have the time to do it, we would like to do that,” he said.

“Not only Shetland, but everywhere we go – if there is time to do what we call historical ordnance operations, we would like to conduct those.

“That is basically looking for leftovers from World War One and especially World War Two. Mines, and they could be bombs and other explosives in the sea.”

Local media were given a tour of the vessel on Friday afternoon.

With a crew of around 40, including 15 younger conscripts, it is a relatively modest ship compared to some other navy vessels.

It can detect mines either by using sonar, remotely operated machines or by “sweeping”.

The ship operates in the Northern Europe region, and had come to Shetland from Faroe.

Commanding officer Kåre Schiøtz after laying the wreath in Scalloway. Photo: Shetland News

Crew said it has been a little while since an active explosive has been found, but the ship always keeps an eye out.

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They can be detonated underwater – apparently causing a bit of a bump on board the ship, but nothing too dangerous.

The crew members tend to work six hours on, six hours off during big exercises, but usually four hours on and eight hours off.

The sleeping quarters are fairly compact – six bunks a room – but with the younger ones having been on board for a year, they are fairly used to it.

The ship, based in Bergen, stopped in Lerwick whilst on another operation to allow its crew to have some time off. It is due to leave Shetland on Monday morning.

The wreath laid at the Shetland Bus memorial in Scalloway on Friday afternoon. Photo: Shetland News

The crew have booked guided tours, and some have already enjoyed a music session at nearby pub The Lounge.

Meanwhile one crew member said a highlight was buying Shetland knitwear in Scalloway.

But the most poignant moment of the trip is likely to be the wreath laying in Scalloway to mark the Shetland Bus operation.

It was a series of undercover boat trips run between Nazi occupied Norway and Shetland during the Second World War – ferrying people, weapons and supplies in often poor conditions.

Schiøtz said a “significant connection” remains between Norway and Shetland.

“Especially through the Shetland Bus and what they did,” he said, overlooking the sea, after laying the wreath.

“It means a lot to me and the group to come here and be able to do this.”

Crew members Hans Peter Leines and Marcus Flemmen. Photo: Shetland News
On board the ship. Photo: Shetland News
Some of the cutting gear on board the ship. Photo: Shetland News
Photo: Shetland News

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