MSC builds new hospital ship with Mercy Ships

MSC builds new hospital ship with Mercy Ships
Edited by Travel Weekly


    Cruise line MSC has joined forces with Mercy Ships International, through the MSC Foundation and the MSC Group, to build a new hospital ship. 

    The new purpose-built hospital ship will expand the impact of Mercy Ships’ life-changing surgeries, anaesthetic care and surgical education for future generations of patients and healthcare professionals in sub-Saharan Africa.

    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 the new project with a generous anchor donation from MSC Foundation.

    “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,” said Captain 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 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.”

    Mercy Ships has provided more than 117,000 transformational specialised surgical procedures since being founded in 1978. Surgeries include maxillofacial reconstructions, contracture release for severe burns, correction for orthopaedic problems in children, cleft lip and palate repair, ophthalmology and dental services. The non-governmental organisation also assists the capacities of local healthcare systems through sustainably designed surgical education, training, and advocacy programs. 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,” he said.

    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.

    New Mercy Ship will accommodate 600

    The new ship will provide accommodation for about 600 crew and guests on board. Its hospital will span two decks over 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.

    “This new hospital ship brings state of-the-art equipment and facilities to support the nations we serve,” Gert van de Weerdhof, CEO of Mercy Ships said: “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.”

    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 honourable 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 Mercy Ships had a transformative impact on the services and training of 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,” she said.

    MSC Mercy ShipsUmu, maxillofacial patient, during Deck 7 patient time with Penda Ndiaye, Ward Day Crew. Photo Credit: Judit Maier

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