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Agreement reached to build new hospital ship for Mercy ShipsAgreement reached to build new hospital ship for

A groundbreaking agreement between MSC Group, MSC Foundation and the charity Mercy Ships International has been reached for the construction of a brand-new hospital ship that will deliver free surgery and training annually to thousands of people in Africa.

On 8 April 2024 the chairman of MSC Group and MSC Foundation, Capt Gianluigi Aponte, Diego Aponte, MSC Group President and Member of the MSC Foundation Board, and Mercy Ships Founder Don Stephens finalised an agreement to kickstart this new project with 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. 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.

A schematic of the new ship
A schematic of the new ship

“It has been extremely gratifying to work with Don and provide this crucial support through his unique organisation 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” said Capt. Aponte, founder of the MSC Group.

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

Mercy Ships, a non-governmental organisation, is also committed to boosting the capacities of local healthcare systems through sustainably designed surgical education, training, and advocacy programmes. 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 (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 Mercy Ships’ 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.”

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, 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 organisation’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 metres, 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.

Ships Montly - January 2024

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