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Mercy Ships makes plea for skilled crew

Clockwise L-R: Mercy Ships’ VP global branding, Jitze Kramer, tells SCN more volunteers are needed; participants of the round table discussion onboard the ship; Mercy Ships International's chief medical officer Dr. Miriam John and consultant oral, maxillofacial, head and neck surgeon for Mercy Ships, Dr. Leo Cheng
Mercy Ships representatives and those among its network of supporters have spoken of the urgent need for more qualified seafaring personnel to man Global Mercy, the NGO’s new hospital ship.

‘One of our main challenges, now with this two-ship fleet, is instead of 1,200 people per year that crew our ships, we are ramping up to 2,800 in a given year that we have both of our ships active in Africa, so we need more volunteers,’ Mercy Ships’ VP global branding, Jitze Kramer, told Seatrade Cruise News. ‘The volunteers on our ships are maritime people, engineers … to first and second captains and officers.

'Fantastic opportunity'

‘For anybody in the maritime industry, this is a fantastic opportunity to become part of a community like on a ship of Mercy Ships. It is something quite different to something they normally encounter on other ships … I think the industry can help us find ways to be creative in finding people who want to serve onboard a Mercy Ship.’

The sentiment was echoed in a panel discussion during Mercy Ships’ Global Changemakers event for corporate partners. Martijn Provily, general manager, Mercy Ships in Holland, said, ‘The more professional the vessel gets, the higher the rate of qualified personnel you need. It’s a huge vessel and needs to be maintained, you need the right people in the engine rooms.’

Companies could pay employees while they volunteer

Provily went on to paint a picture of a system whereupon companies agree to continue paying their employees while they carry out work for Mercy Ships, noting, ‘There are shipowners who could supply personnel in order to serve on this ship to do a mission tour and say, I will pay for your salary for three or four months.

‘We would love to give presentations to companies. We need a lot more people to get these ships operating. We can work on a programme to make that happen.’

The concept had the support of Mirjam de Vos, HR director for Europe, Wilhelm Group who, addressing the crowd, stated, ‘You will get a richer person back … You’ve seen something of life and it helps you to handle stress in other situations — it creates a certain resilience.’

Stena RoRo, the company behind the ship’s design, already embraces the concept, providing extended leave and financial help to its workers which acts as an incentive for them to lend their skills to Mercy Ships.

Getting straight to the heart of colleagues

Nick Brown, CEO, Lloyd’s Register Group also said that doing so creates a ‘snowball effect’ prompting others to get involved. ‘It is the story behind Mercy Ships, the impactfulness, that gets straight to the heart of colleagues,’ he said. ‘They come back into the organisation, as part of some internal recognition scheme, then people around the world want to know how they can get involved.’

Tours of the 37,000gt Global Mercy have been taking place at Rotterdam port since February 26 with 11,000 individuals embarking so far and people across 111 countries participating in a virtual online tour. Visits conclude March 14, a day before Global Mercy moves to Tenerife for further works. Its first deployment will be to Senegal.

Mercy Ships is the official nonprofit partner of Seatrade Cruise.