World's largest charity hospital ship begins maiden voyage to Liberia


  • The world's largest non-governmental hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, began her inaugural sail this past weekend and is expected to make her way to war-torn Liberia by the end of the month. The newest Mercy Ship departed the port of Blyth UK on Friday May 4 for Rotterdam, Holland where a number of special events were held onboard to thank European and other supporters of the project before the ship set sail for Monrovia Tuesday, May 8.

Don Stephens, Founder/President Mercy Ships joined the crew for the UK - Holland leg of the sail of the hospital ship's maiden voyage. "This ship is an amazing tool," he stated. "For those compelled to share, Mercy Ships is the charity that transports incomparable health care to those most in need. The lengthy renovation project has successfully converted the Africa Mercy into a state-of-the-art hospital ship. Our hearts are full of gratitude to all who have worked and given. We are on our way!"

The purchase and conversion of the former rail ferry into a state-of-the-art hospital ship cost approximately $62 million. The hospital ship is expected to have a working life of around 30 years. The ship will provide free health care and community development services to the poorest people of Africa.

The Africa Mercy is the fourth ship to be operated by global charity, Mercy Ships, which has provided more than $670 million worth of services since its inception in 1978.

Over 400 volunteer crew will take part in the hospital ship's first field service in Africa providing free medical care, capacity building, relief aid and community development programs to the people of Liberia.

Two million dollars worth of hospital supplies, equipment and materials are onboard, transforming this vessel from an empty shell into a state-of-the-art hospital ship and small village. In addition to the hospital supplies, essential goods including 26.8 tons of frozen meat and fish (four month supply), 8,800 pounds of breakfast cereal, 925 pounds of coffee (courtesy of Starbucks) and 3000 rolls of toilet paper (three month supply) have been loaded.

The projected surgical capacity onboard the Africa Mercy is approximately 7,000 operations per year including, cataract removal/lens implant, tumor removal, cleft lip and palate reconstruction, orthopaedics and obstetric fistula repair.

Massive boosts to the project also came in the form of a $10 million matching grant donated by The Oak Foundation, based in Switzerland and ongoing support from UK businesswoman Ann Gloag OBE whose Balcraig Foundation donated in excess of $15 million to the project.

Crew on the Africa Mercy are volunteer professionals from around the world who pay monthly room and board costs while volunteering. Doctors, dentists, nurses, community developers, teachers, builders, cooks, seamen, engineers, and many others donate their time and skills to the effort.

Mercy Ships is the leader in using hospital ships to deliver free worldc-class health care services to the forgotten poor. Over the years, Mercy Ships has treated more than 300,000 people in village medical clinics and primary health care, performing over 32,500 surgeries, 180,000 dental treatments and completing over 900 construction and agriculture projects, including schools, clinics, orphanages and water wells. Each year more than 1,600 short-term volunteers serve with Mercy Ships. To date, more than 550 ports in 70 nations have been visited by a Mercy Ship.

The story of Mercy Ships is told in Ships of Mercy, published by Thomas Nelson US and is available at:

Contact: Diane Rickard, Director Media Relations

Mercy Ships International Operations

UK: 44 1438 727 800

Note to Editors:

1. Africa Mercy - project history

Acquired in 1999 through a donation from the Scottish Balcraig Foundation, the former Danish rail ferry 'Droning Ingrid' was re-named the Africa Mercy by Dame Norma Major in April 2000. The $62million (approx £30m) refit was funded by donations from the Oak Foundation of Switzerland, continuing support from the Balcraig Foundation and other trusts, corporate gift-in-kind and individual contributors. The conversion was completed at A & P Shipyard, Newcastle-upon-Tyne in March 2007 and was the largest conversion project of its kind in the UK. A comparable new vessel would be more than double this price.

2. Africa Mercy - facts

Formerly 'Droning Ingrid'
16,572 tonnes
474 berths for crew
78 bed ward
6 operating theatres
X-ray room
CT scanner
Dental clinic
School - up to 60 pupils
Length: 499 feet
Breadth: 78 feet