Mercy Ships Plans to Build Hospital Ship with Kickstart Donation from MSC

Mercy Ships
Mercy Ships two hospital ships docked in Senegal in 2022 (Mercy Ships)

Published Apr 22, 2024 4:32 PM by The Maritime Executive


Healthcare NGO Mercy Ships launched an ambitious project to build the group’s second all-new dedicated hospital ship just three years after it took delivery on the Global Mercy, which at 36,600 gross tons is the world's largest civilian-owned hospital ship. The group highlights that the need to accelerate access to surgical care and surgical education in sub-Saharan Africa remains very apparent and they will expand their current operations with a new hospital ship.

The project was kickstarted with a generous anchor donation from MSC Group through its philanthropic entity MSC Foundation. Captain Gianluigi Aponte, Founder of MSC Group, and his son Diego Aponte, MSC Group President, represented the company and finalized an agreement with the charity. The anchor donation is providing the foundation for the new ship project.

MSC reports it is an active supporter of the health care organization reflecting the family’s commitment to supporting access to critical healthcare. They noted their personal experience in Africa and the critical work of Mercy Ships. MSC and Mercy Ships have been partners since 2011, with the MSC Group ensuring logistical support and container delivery of supplies to support Mercy Ships’ operations.

The charity was started in 1978 with a vision of using hospital ships to save, train, and transform lives. They note to date the charity has impacted more than 2.8 million lives. It has provided more than 117,000 specialized surgical procedures alone. In addition to direct medical care, through its volunteers, Mercy Ships also is committed to boosting the capacities of local healthcare systems. They design and conduct surgical education, training, and advocacy programs.

Expanding its fleet with a new purpose-built hospital ship, designed to similar specifications as the Global Mercy with a focus on designated training spaces, Mercy Ships’ Founder Don Stephens explains will allow Mercy Ships to increase its capacity to collaborate with host nations in training and advocacy efforts.


Rendering of the planned third hospital ship (Mercy Ships)


The new ship will feature living spaces to accommodate approximately 600 crew members and guests on board. Its hospital will span two decks and 7,000 square meters, featuring six operating rooms, a fully equipped laboratory, and state-of-the-art training spaces such as a simulation lab. Mercy Ships says this will make it possible for it to strengthen local surgical systems during its time in port, typically a 10-month field service.

The company working with Stena RoRo took delivery of the Global Mercy in 2021 after six years of construction at the Tianjin Xingang shipyard of China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC). The first steel for the hospital ship was cut in 2015 and assembly began in 2017. Global Mercy was floated for the first time in February 2018.

Registered in Malta, the Global Mercy is 570 feet long and includes six specially designed operating rooms, 200 beds, a laboratory, and general outpatient clinics. In addition, it was outfitted to provide eye and dental care, women’s health services, and education on agriculture and nutrition. The group’s older ship, the Africa Mercy is a converted ferry that has been fulfilling the charity’s mission since 2007.