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World's Biggest Civilian Hospital Ship Completes Sea Trials

global mercy
Image courtesy Mercy Ships

Published May 10, 2021 10:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

After several years of construction at CSSC's Tianjin Xingang shipyard in northern China, the hospital ship Global Mercy - the largest civilian vessel of her kind ever built - has completed her official sea trials. After some final fitting out, the shipyard will present the ship for delivery this summer. 

When delivered, she will sail to Antwerp and Rotterdam for crewing and outfitting, then to Senegal for her first mission. 

“These deep-water trials represent a critical checklist for our new purpose-built ship . . . [and] I am pleased to say that the Global Mercy successfully passed every test,” said Jim Paterson, Marine Executive Consultant for Mercy Ships. “We are then left with some finishing touches in the interior, particularly the hospital area before we take delivery."

"The purpose of a sea trial is to ensure that the ship's systems are working properly during operation and that the requirements of the specifications and applicable standards are met," says Per Westling, CEO Stena RoRo. "The hospital services to be provided on the Global Mercy entail increased requirements for good ventilation and minimization of vibrations, for example. This was also checked and she was approved on all counts."

Swedish ro/pax operator Stena RoRo is leading the project,  and Finnish naval architecture house Deltamarin is contributing to the design. The vessel is classed by LR and will sail under the Maltese flag.

Stena RoRo based the project on international standards for ro/pax ferries. That layout has been modified to a purely passenger ship design with hospital facilities. The Global Mercy has six operating theaters, 200 hospital beds, a laboratory, a patient clinic and an eye and dental clinic. In total, she will be able to accommodate 950 people, including 640 crewmembers.

"For a few years now, our team has consisted of up to 16 members, stationed at the Tianjin Xingang shipyard," said Stena project leader and site manager Rikard Olsson, who has been working on the project in China since 2016. "For this shipyard, this is the first time this kind of ship, which can be compared to a cruise ship, has been built. We have worked hard to meet the required standard and everything has gone very well."

The first mission will begin in 2022, when the Global Mercy is expected to deploy to Dakar, Senegal. With the assistance of more than 600 onboard volunteers from around the world, including professional mariners and medical staff, she will provide a variety of medical services to underserved communities.

More than 93 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa does not have access to safe surgical care, and the coronavirus pandemic has put limited local resources under strain. Mercy Ships says that a hospital ship provides the ideal platform to address the need for care in coastal nations with limited shoreside infrastructure.