All hands on deck!

Larry navigating the ship through the intersection of the Prime Meridian and the Equator

Retired Naval Commander Larry Robbins returns to sea offering his nautical expertise for three months as the Mercy Ship undertakes the annual season of voyages. After assisting to sail the 16,000-tonne hospital ship from Benin to a shipyard maintenance period in the Canary Islands, Larry will conclude this tour-of-duty after sailing to the new field service location of Cameroon in West Africa.

Having volunteered in both Second and Third Officer responsibilities onboard over four tours-of-duty, Commander Robbins describes the duties essential to the function of the hospital ship. “There are all manner of maritime regulations to be adhered to and a system of planned maintenance to be followed to keep the ship ‘up to scratch’ so that the medical and surgical work can proceed unhindered. Apart from the bridge watch keeping and duty roles in port, the Third Officer role includes keeping up with the maintenance and checking of fire-fighting equipment and lifesaving appliances. The Second Officer role included Navigation and Safety/Training. Setting the courses to Congo and navigating into the port here was a splendid step-back in time!”

“Previously I particularly enjoyed tutoring the West African deck hands in their task book studies. Sometimes I have just been one step ahead of them – thank goodness for the internet! But if one speaks with conviction and wears two stripes on one’s shoulder that certainly helps!  They are a very willing bunch.”

The vessel is equipped with five operating theatres, five wards and all the accompanying services to provide essential surgery for Africa’s poorest people. The Africa Mercy is fully self-sufficient as it docks in a developing nation port for 10 months per year. In addition to the surgeons and medical crew, the captain, engineers, deck hands, operational staff and deck officers also volunteer their time for the privilege of serving people in desperate need.

Larry serves as the Chairman of Mercy Ships NZ, and as a Mercy Ships speaker sharing about his adventures at sea.


Do you know a marine engineer or Chief Officer with a passion for the poor? Immediate vacancies are available. Visit for more information