King Harald V, Queen Sonja of Norway visited Singapore

His Majesty King Harald V and Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway visited Singapore late October for a two-day state visit, aimed at broadening business links between the two countries, especially in oil, gas and shipping.
     Their Majesties arrived in Singapore on October 26, two days ahead of the official programme days. They attended a Norwegian concert and dinner buffet with almost 500 guests, hosted by Ambassador Enok Nygaard and Mr. Steinar Olsen, Head of the Norwegian business delegation.
     The official programme on October 28 started with a welcome ceremony by President and Mrs. S R Nathan at the Istana, the official residence of the President.
     Speaking to the media briefly, King Harald said he had a “very interesting meeting” with the President and they discussed cooperation in tourism and shipping, among other things. He also mentioned that he found the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore “extremely impressive”.
     Earlier during the day, King Harald visited the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, where he was given an orientation about Singapore Harbor and a guided tour of the control center.
     The royal couple also toured, among other places, the National Orchid Gardens, Queen Sonja had an orchid named after her. The new hybrid, called Dendrobium Sonja, has flowers which are about 5cm. wide with sepals and petals that have graceful curls and are a rich red-purple in colour.
     Minister-in-Attendance Lim Boon Heng and Mrs. Lim hosted a lunch for their Majesties at Raffles Hotel. There was also a call by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew before President and Mrs. S R Nathan hosted a state dinner for their Majesties, the official delegation and members of the accompanying business delegation.
     “Since the end of the 19th century, Singapore has been an important harbour for Norwegian ships, and it is still a familiar port of call for many Norwegian vessels,” said King Harald V. “Over the years our co-operation has expanded into other commercial sectors as well as research and cooperation in key areas.”
     “Today, the concentration of Norwegian businesses is higher in Singapore than anywhere else in Asia,” he continued, adding that personal contacts between businessmen and exchanges between researchers and students play an important role in improving the two country’s understanding of each other’s cultures.
     President S R Nathan spoke of the challenges that South-east Asia has weathered in recent years, and said that peaceful political renewal in the region has added fresh optimism and eagerness in the region.
     “Your Majesties’ timely visit therefore helps to position Norway to take advantage of the immense opportunities in Southeast Asia and the wider region,” he said.
     “The scope for further bilateral cooperation remains great, and goes beyond simple economics,” Mr. Nathan continued.
     The royal couple, who were on their third visit to Singapore this time since 1978, were accompanied by a delegation of 120 businessmen, making it one of the largest Norwegian state visits here.
     The King and Queen of Norway kicked off the business part of their visit on 29 October by attending an Innovation Norway led plenary morning session at Shangri La Hotel.
     HM King Harald V officially opened the Norwegian business conference with a welcome address, followed by addresses by Mr. Lim Hng Kiang, Minister for Trade and Industry, as well as Mr. Børge Brende, Minister for Trade and Industry, and by Mr. Erling Øverland, President, Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry.
     The opening conference was followed by eight seminars; Maritime Business & Technology, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Norway as a tourist destination, Norwegian Seafood, Agri-Food, e-Government in the planning and building sector, as well as family friendly working places. HM Queen Sonja gave a presentation at the seminar about tourism and officially opened the seminar about family friendly working places.
     King Harald V also met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore before ending the official programme meeting with reporters. HM the King echoed Mr. Lim Hng Kiang’s sentiment of opportunities for partnership in the oil and gas sector, in health-care tourism, and in infocomm technology.
     “I’m sure people from Norway and people from Singapore, business people, have new connections or even renewed some old ones, so that was the main objective of coming here,” King Harald said.
     During the trip, King Harald also paid a visit to Det Norske Veritas’ operation in Singapore, and also witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the National University of Singapore and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The MoU expands the two institutions’ existing links in maritime and engineering studies and will include research cooperation in the areas of energy, nanotechnology, logistics and technology management.
     Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University also signed a cooperation agreement with Norway’s BI Norwegian School of Management. The third of its kind between the two institutions, the latest tie-up will see them conduct joint graduate and postgraduate courses in maritime studies.
     On the day of their departure for Hanoi on October 31, their Majesties met the Norwegian community at the Norwegian Seaman’s Mission, where there was also a ceremony with Norwegian priest, Carl-Ove Fæster.

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