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Mercy Ships to Build Another Hospital Ship

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

April 22, 2024

Source: Mercy Ships

Source: Mercy Ships

The MSC Foundation, the MSC Group and Mercy Ships International have joined forces to build a new hospital ship.

On 8 April, the chairman of MSC Group and MSC Foundation, Capt. Gianluigi Aponte, MSC Group President and Member of the MSC Foundation Board, Diego Aponte, and Mercy Ships Founder, Don Stephens, finalized an agreement to kickstart the new project with a generous anchor donation from MSC Foundation.

The new purpose-built hospital ship will expand the impact of Mercy Ships’ life-changing surgeries, anesthetic care and surgical education for future generations of patients and healthcare professionals in sub-Saharan Africa.

“I spent part of my childhood and early years in the shipping industry in the Horn of Africa," said Capt. Aponte. "It is a region close to my heart. I saw firsthand the challenges faced by many local communities there, and this shaped my conviction that improving the availability of healthcare would bring real and lasting impact for them. It has been extremely gratifying to work with Don and provide this crucial support through his unique organization Mercy Ships. Our partnership has reaped extraordinary results already, and now we are on the verge of expanding their fleet to increase this support. I truly look forward to seeing this new ship set sail to help more communities across Africa.”

Since Mercy Ships was founded in 1978, the organization has provided more than 117,000 transformational specialized surgical procedures. These surgeries include maxillofacial reconstructions, contracture release for severe burns, correction for orthopedic problems in children, cleft lip and palate repair, ophthalmology and dental services.

Mercy Ships, a non-governmental organization, is also committed to boosting the capacities of local healthcare systems through sustainably designed surgical education, training, and advocacy programs. Mercy Ships has provided additional training to more than 54,300 local professionals in their areas of expertise.

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, will allow Mercy Ships to increase its capacity to collaborate with host nations in training and advocacy efforts.

The need to accelerate access to surgical care and surgical education in sub-Saharan Africa remains very apparent. In his welcome speech at the recent West African College of Surgeons conference in Freetown, Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh of Sierra Leone stated that the country is still grappling with 91% unmet surgical needs. Highlighting the progress already made, he urged collaborative efforts to tackle surgical deficits.

Operating hospital ships involves transporting large quantities of essential supplies across oceans and seas to continuously support surgical and training activities. MSC and Mercy Ships have been partners since 2011, with the MSC Group ensuring logistical support and container delivery of supplies to all ports of service. The infrastructure support and logistical expertise provided by its teams in Africa ranges from MSC's local shipping agency and MSC and TiL terminals handling cargo to MSC and MEDLOG logistics, storage, and inland transportation services.

In addition to this, MSC have provided extensive technical advice and experience in preparation for the new vessel, working with Mercy Ships to develop a design that will improve efficiency for the organization’s needs.

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. This makes it possible for Mercy Ships to strengthen local surgical systems during its time in port, typically a 10-months field service.

Daniela Picco, MSC Foundation Executive Director, said: “We are extremely proud of our support for Mercy Ships through grant-making and in-kind donations and of the transformative impacts their free services and training have had on 18,000 medical professionals and community leaders, and 30,300 patients of all ages through 33,200 surgeries since 2011.”

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