At 16,000 tonnes the M/V Africa Mercy is not exactly a super liner, but with her over 370 volunteer crew this converted rail and car ferry is currently the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship.
Brought into operation in 2007 to replace the NGO’s 3 smaller and no longer viable older ships (the M/V Anastasis, M/V Caribbean Mercy and M/V Island Mercy) she has a greater work capacity than the 3 previous ships combined.
But the idea is not to have her sailing the high seas. Rather as a platform to transport first class medical facilities to a developing nation where she is docked usually for 10 months at a time to provide immediate medical and surgical care to those with urgent needs, whilst doing all possible to improve the standard of the national healthcare system in each country and therefore see lasting improvements in the standard of locally provided medical care.
This is achieved by working closely with the government and other local entities to train national medical personnel including surgeons, nurses, technicians, and others, whilst carrying out projects to improve the local infrastructure such as construction, renovation of existing facilities, and where necessary working with other partners to provide sources of reliable drinking water and electricity.
But the ship is also home for many of the crew who live on board for anything from one month to decades. The school provides the younger crewmembers (children of families who work on board) an education right from kindergarten to the last year of high school. With satellite internet, huge touch screens, tablets and laptop computers, all provided by generous grants from specific donors, the school students have all the latest technology available, whilst being able to experience first-hand other cultures and gain a better understanding of the world scene as a whole. Some of our teenagers have even spent their whole childhood on board.
With a hairdressing salon, supermarket, coffee shop, bank and post office on board the ship is a like many small towns and needs a wide variety of professionals and skilled workers from deck officers and engineers to IT specialists and chefs to keep her running.
As if all this wasn’t enough there are other developmental projects launched from the ship in each country like sustainable, environmentally friendly agricultural programs that often produce 5 times the yield of traditional methods allowing people to see the excess to supplement their diet, buy medicines, and send their kids to school.
For more technical details of the ship click here.