A couple common questions we get from those interested in volunteering with us focuses on the safety of our crew. Specifically, “is it safe to live onboard ships in African nations? What security measures are in place?”

We think these are great questions! Mercy Ships takes the safety of our crew and patients very seriously – in fact, it’s our highest priority. For that reason, we employ our very own highly trained security team who live and work on the ship year-round. Sounds pretty cool, right? Allow us to introduce you to the Gurkhas.

Originally from Nepal, Gurkhas serve around the world providing security for ships in foreign ports and consulates. They are known for their bravery, strength, and resilience. Since 2005, a team of Gurkha-trained professionals have provided 24/7 security and safety for patients and crew onboard our ships, keeping us all safe and sound. They might appear intimidating at first, but don’t let their serious faces fool you. They have a knack for knowing every single volunteer’s name and manning the gangway with contagious smiles. We consider them a part of our family!

Every Mercy Ships vessel is equipped with both Gurkhas and a Ship Security Officer, who maintain working relationships with local embassy staff and other security contacts. While a Mercy Ship is capable of sailing away from a port in an emergency situation, we’ve never been required to do so in the more than 40 years that we have been operating.

Not only do our fellow Gurkha crewmembers work with the Ship Security Officer to make us feel secure, they also step in when needed to help out in other departments! Recently, when the Food Services department was understaffed, Gurkhas Lok and Tek volunteered during their time off to cook for the crew. We thank them for representing our core values of loving and serving others and, of course, for their delicious Nepalese food!

In addition to providing this security team, Mercy Ships ensues the safety of our crew by avoiding service in conflict-prone regions (we have, however, served in post-conflict venues, such as Sierra Leone and Liberia, after the cessation of hostilities). Our security protocols are developed from evaluations conducted by an assessment team, various embassies, other NGOs and multilateral agencies, on-the-ground surveys, and government officials. Mercy Ships complies with the International Ship & Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) and has a regulatory approved Ship Security Plan (SSP) for its vessels. Our Company Security Officer (CSO) is responsible for compliance and administration oversight of the approved SSP and the CSO or his designate is available 24/7 to respond to any incidents identified by the ship’s Captain. In accordance with the signed protocol with a host nation, its government is responsible for providing port security.

Mercy Ships finds itself incredibly grateful for all its crew from around the world, with nurses, teachers, mariners, and our Gurkahs hailing from over 50 nations. We’re proud to be a part of your family. Are the Gurkhas the toughest team onboard? It’s possible, but we definitely hope they keep cooking for us!

There are so many ways to get involved with our mission of bringing hope and healing to those in need. Learn more here.