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MSC Foundation, MSC Group, Mercy Ships move forward on new hospital ship

A rendering of the new ship design and bottom left, maxillofacial surgeons Payam Farzad and Leo Cheng examine a patient, while Mercy Ships' Gracious Sankhulani, education training and advocacy resident, and Gary Parker, emeritus chief medical officer, look on. Bottom right is hand therapist Yeiddy Ferreira, working with a patient.
MSC Group, MSC Foundation and Mercy Ships International are teaming to prepare for the construction of a new hospital ship to deliver free surgery and training to thousands of people in Africa each year.

Capt. Gianluigi Aponte, MSC Group/MSC Foundation chair; MSC Group President/Foundation board member Diego Aponte and Mercy Ships founder Don Stephens finalized an agreement to kickstart this new project with a generous anchor donation from MSC Foundation.

Expanding its fleet with a purpose-built hospital ship, designed to similar specifications as 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.

Six operating rooms, a laboratory, training spaces

The new ship will feature living spaces to accommodate approximately 600 crew and guests. Its hospital will span two decks and 7,000 square meters, featuring six operating rooms, a fully equipped laboratory and the latest 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-month field service.

MSC has 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 organization's needs.

Longtime Mercy Ships supporter

Stephens expressed his gratitude to MSC, a longtime Mercy Ships supporter.

'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,' Stephens said. '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.'

Seeing the challenges firsthand

'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,' Aponte said. '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 organization Mercy Ships,' Aponte continued. 'Our partnership has reaped extraordinary results already and now we are on the verge of expanding their fleet to increase this support.'

More than 117,000 people served, 54,300 trained

Since Mercy Ships was founded in 1978, the charity has provided more than 117,000 transformational specialised surgical procedures including 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 organization, is also committed to boosting 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.

Need to accelerate access to surgical care

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 conference in Freetown, Sierra Leone Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh said his country is still grappling with 91% unmet surgical needs. He urged collaborative efforts to tackle surgical deficits.

MSC-Mercy Ships partnership 

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.

'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,' Diego Aponte said. 'This vessel is yet another milestone in our vision to support the African continent with achieving a truly prosperous and sustainable destiny.'

Mercy Ships is the charity of choice for Cruise Lines International Association and the nonprofit partner of Seatrade Cruise Global