How the dream of a purpose-built hospital ship became reality.
On June 16, 2021, Mercy Ships celebrated a joyful moment — the delivery of the Global Mercy®, or the official handover of the vessel from the shipyard. The construction phase — which first began in 2015 when the first piece of steel was cut, and the first block of the keel was laid — has come to an end. And her future is ready to set sail!
The community at Mercy Ships likes to dream big — dreams of hope, dreams of healing, and dreams of a second ship. This dream started in 2007 when the Danish Ferry Dronning Ingrid was transformed into the Africa Mercy.
Jim Paterson, who led the Global Mercy construction process, remembered this time, saying,
“Towards the end of the Africa Mercy conversion (retrofitting), a few of us started to consider what we would like an ideal hospital ship to look like.”
Putting the Dream on Paper
The crew survey that year confirmed the wishes and ideas of Jim Paterson and his team.
“We needed increased space in the hospital to expand our training possibilities, we needed more storage space, and the crew wished for more public spaces,” said Jim Paterson.
That dream started to become reality when, in 2011, the Mercy Ships International Board agreed to pursue a new, purpose-built ship instead of converting another vessel or barge. After the basic design for the new ship was ready, a broker introduced Mercy Ships to the ship building company Stena RoRo. It was a good match at the right time. As it happens, Stena RoRo had a concept for a new ferry design that was remarkably similar to our own concept in several areas. Together, we spent a year and a half blending these two concepts to come up with a detailed specification for what would become the Global Mercy.
The Dream Becomes Reality
After choosing a shipyard and signing a new ship contract in 2013, it was time to finalize the basic design and start construction. In September 2015, the first piece of steel that would become the Global Mercy was cut and three months later the first steel block of the ship was built. The construction, as with most ships, is done by fabricating steel blocks that will be fitted together. In the case of the Global Mercy, a total of 267 blocks were needed. In the Keel Laying Ceremony in December 2015, the first block came to rest on the dry dock. This marked a major milestone in the construction journey, because for the first time, the dream of a second ship became visible.
From that moment on, it was full steam ahead with construction. With each steel block, the dream moved closer to becoming a reality. Over time, we were able to experience highlights such as the first time the Global Mercy floated in the water (February 2018), the first time the engines started (September 2019), the moment we introduced the new ship to the world (October 2020), and the moment she became truly seaworthy after passing sea trials (April 2021).
Jim Paterson has been there from the first planning stage to her delivery. After the sea trials were completed, he reflected, saying,
“Right now, we are in the thick of bringing the project to completion. Some days it’s great to see what we developed on paper become a reality and is very fulfilling — other days you look at some things and think will we ever be done! I don’t think it will really sink in until we watch the ship sail away.”
The Sea Ahead
Very soon, the Global Mercy will set sail to Europe where she will be loaded with medical inventory and operating room equipment. Piece by piece, the Global Mercy will come to life, becoming a fully equipped hospital ship capable of transforming lives onboard. What started as an idea on paper and a block of steel will soon be a hub of hope like never before.
From Europe, the ship will sail to Africa for her first field service in early 2022. What began as a small conversation has grown over several years to a dream that we could only imagine. We are so thankful for our friends, volunteers, and partners who’s support and passion have made this new chapter a reality.
And there’s still work to do. We envision a world where everyone has access to quality, safe, and affordable surgical treatment. That is why we are expanding our work in Africa.
Visit mercyships.org/get-involved today to see how you can join us in our mission.