Every year, people around the world celebrate World Maritime Day. In honor of this day, join us in shining a spotlight on the Mercy Ships fleet — past and present — as well as the incredible volunteer seafarers who operate them.
Meet Our Exceptional Maritime Crew
Mercy Ships could not provide life-changing work without the skill and passion of the maritime crew who volunteer onboard our hospital ships. From the bridge to the deck and the engine room, volunteer seafarers keep each ship running. For mariners like Rodrigo Silva, Chief Officer onboard the Global Mercy, volunteering is a way to foster both professional and personal passions.
“I can actually use my skills to change people’s lives,” Rodrigo said. “I am part of what the hospital is doing, the mission of Mercy Ships, to bring hope and healing to the poor. I feel very connected to that mission and I feel what I do actually makes an impact and makes a difference. Being able to see a patient’s transformation and know that I have played a part of it is really powerful.”
As a mariner onboard a Mercy Ship, Rodrigo can do what he loves while working alongside his loved ones. It’s a rare opportunity for seafarers to bring their families to the job site, rather than being away from home for long stretches of time.
“One of the cornerstones of seafaring life is that we are away and missing the things that are happening back home with the kids, with schooling and with your spouse,” Rodrigo shared. “Being onboard with Mercy Ships is different, you’re able to be together.”
Just like Rodrigo, Chief Engineer Andy Cole from the U.K. says serving onboard changed the destiny of his whole family. Wanting to spend more time with his family was one of the main reasons Andy was drawn to Mercy Ships — and why he decided to stay for more than 20 years.
“As a seafarer, I had the desire to not be separated from my wife and family for six months of the year,” Andy shared. “I wanted to spend more time with my wife and children and take them on an adventure by sharing my world as a sailor. I love the ocean — the open seas are such special places. Having my family onboard and traveling to many countries in West Africa and getting to know African cultures is so enriching. It’s been an amazing journey.”
Meet the Mercy Ships Fleet
Over the course of the last 40 years, Mercy Ships has had between one and three ships in service at any given time. Each ship has its own unique story, with all but the most recent ship having its own purpose before being refit into a floating hospital.
The very first ship in the fleet, the Anastasis, began service in 1978 and became a vessel of hope and healing for the next 19 years. Early years of Mercy Ships history also utilized the vessels Good Samaritan (1983-2001) and Caribbean Mercy (1994-2006) to fulfill the mission. By the time a Danish rail ferry was refitted into the Africa Mercy® in 2007, Mercy Ships had decided to focus on serving populations in West and Central Africa.
Operating a fleet of hospital ships has opened the door to visiting more than 600 ports across 55 nations. However, the Mercy Ships community always dreamed of doing even greater things — providing more hope and healing than ever before. In 2015, this dream was realized when construction began on the first purpose-built hospital ship. By adding the Global Mercy® to the fleet this year, Mercy Ships will be able to offer surgery to more than double the number of patients, as well as bringing training to more local healthcare workers through a state-of-the-art simulation lab and classrooms onboard.
Whether you’re a mariner, a medical professional, or any skillset in between, there is a place for you onboard. Want your professional and personal skills to make a real difference? Join us at mercyships.org/makeyourmark.