A New Season of Healing
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Mercy Ships Announces Brand New Purpose-Built Hospital Ship

We are so excited to announce that we have joined forces with partners the MSC Foundation and the MSC Group to grow our fleet with another new, purpose-built hospital ship. This addition, to be built to similar specifications as the Global Mercy, 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.

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The agreement was finalized on April 8, 2024, during a meeting between the chairman of MSC Group and MSC Foundation, Captain Gianluigi Aponte, Diego Aponte, MSC Group President and Member of the MSC Foundation Board, and Mercy Ships Founder Don Stephens. This exciting new project is made possible by a generous anchor donation from MSC Foundation, reflecting the visionary leaders’ commitment to supporting access to critical healthcare for the generations to come.  

“I spent part of my childhood and early years in the shipping industry in the Horn of Africa, it is a region close to my heart,” Capt. Aponte, founder of the MSC Group. “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.”  

Expanding Access to Safe Surgical Care and Education

The impact has already been significant.

Since Mercy Ships was founded in 1978, we have 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.

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Mercy Ships has also remained committed to boosting the capacities of its partnering healthcare systems through sustainably designed surgical education, training, and advocacy programs. Since 1978, our hardworking volunteers have provided additional training to more than 54,300 local professionals in their areas of expertise. 

With the addition of a new ship, which will be designed with a focus on designated training spaces, we will increase our 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 (WACS) 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. 

Don Stephens, founder of Mercy Ships, confirmed our vision for serving African nations with safe surgical care and education: “The investment of many around the world towards a fleet of hospital ships will be enhanced by the future of our new purpose-built vessel. The mission of Mercy Ships to bring Hope and Healing is only possible by the generosity of our partners, volunteer crew, and the provision of God. Today, I am grateful to MSC for their support.”

 

The Multiplying Impact of Partnership

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. 

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Diego Aponte, MSC Group President and a Member of the MSC Foundation Board, said: “I have always been passionate about Africa and I was struck by the extraordinary and honorable nature of Don’s initiative when it was first presented, and these made me want to be involved in a significant way. Mercy Ships brings tangible and concrete support to thousands of families across the region, and with MSC Group’s major presence there we have a duty to give back to the local communities. This vessel is yet another milestone in our vision to support the African continent with achieving a truly prosperous and sustainable destiny.” 

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. When the discussion started with Mercy Ships’ founder Don Stephens to build a new ship together, I was delighted to facilitate this game-changing commitment to accompany Mercy Ships into the coming decades.” 

The Future Impact of a New Ship

Our new ship will feature living spaces to accommodate approximately 600 crewmembers 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 us to strengthen local surgical systems during our time in port, typically a 10-month field service. 

“This new hospital ship will bring state-of-the-art equipment and facilities to support the nations we serve,” Gert van de Weerdhof, CEO of Mercy Ships, shared. “This new vessel and her future crew will enable us to meet surgical needs while supporting host nations as they develop healthcare systems with their next generation of medical professionals.”  

Join the Journey

We have been blessed with incredibly generous anchor gifts to launch this project, but continued support is needed to bring a new ship to life. Every gift, prayer, and action will bring us another step closer. Help bring hope and healing to even more — follow along to see how you can get involved as this new venture unfolds!