Financial accountability, transparency and excellence are pillars of the finance departments onboard our ships. Many times people who work in finance are surprised to learn their skills are vital to the function of a hospital ship. Moise shares about what he does onboard, and why is role is so fulfilling.

maritime, medical and general volunteer roles with Mercy Ships



‘We’ll make Christmas as festive as possible’ says Harry, the Baker onboard the Africa Mercy.  We asked him what he is baking for the crew during the holidays.  ‘White and brown bread, surprise bread, currant buns, baguettes, Swedish bread, Stromboli, I’m always trying new things,’ said Harry, who is from The Netherlands. ‘Normally I would work with a fellow baker, but I’m the lucky one who can bake for the 140 volunteers that are on the ship during the holidays.’

He also shares with us a delicious holiday recipe you can make at home, below. 

Harry is a sturdy man, with an impressive moustache hidden behind his face mask and a twinkle in his eyes. He has the looks of a true seafarer —but he hasn’t been sailing for long at all. He first came onboard the Africa Mercy in 2018, after a 30-year career as a truck driver travelling throughout Europe.  Harry said: ‘In 2016 I got an email from Mercy Ships inviting me to a weekend on a ship to get to know the organization. It was a great weekend, but they didn’t need a truck driver. What they did need was a baker. I was a bit disappointed, but then someone said to me: “Well, maybe you can get retrained and be a baker.” I wasn’t convinced — yet.’

Diving into a New Skill
Harry felt enthusiastic about Mercy Ships, but was doubtful about a new profession. In early 2017, weeks after his visit to the ship, he signed up for online baking classes and found an internship at a bakery. ‘Becoming a baker was a deeply felt and conscious choice. It was different from my previous job, which I kind of rolled into. I had my truck driver’s license from my time in the military, so becoming a truck driver was an obvious choice. But this time I really felt that becoming a baker was what I needed to do. That this was my purpose.’

‘And with this purpose, I was able to put in all the hard work. I did the internship along with driving a truck for 70 hours a week. I fit in any studying during those moments that I needed to rest during my rides.’

The hard work paid off. In the summer of 2018, his supervisor said that Harry was ready to bake on his own. He didn’t waste any time. A week later he was in the docks of Las Palmas, Tenerife, preparing to sail to Guinea for his first field service onboard the Africa Mercy.

From Polish Pretzels to Swedish Bread
Baking bread isn’t a routine for Harry. He tries to find out what people like and experiments with bread from different cultures. ‘I try to bake something from every nation we have on the ship. I ask the crew what kind of bread they like from their home country. I got all kinds of recipes and started trying them out. The Polish Pretzels and the Stromboli, for instance, are a success and return on the menu. Currently, I’m trying out Swedish bread. And these new experiments are gone first, always,’ said a proud Harry.

Christmas on the Africa Mercy
But then came 2020, and like everyone else, we had to adapt. In September, Harry decided to come back to the ship and stay for at least a year. ‘It’s a lot quieter now. Everybody is keeping a safe distance, wearing face masks and spending more time by themselves in their cabins. We’re all trying our very best to make it work, also during the holidays. We’re going to celebrate Christmas and make it as festive as possible. My contribution will be a French brioche and a four-layer chocolate bread shaped like a star or a Christmas tree.’

Harry’s Dream
‘I’m so grateful for the work I get to do. I’m learning so much and by baking my bread I fuel the crew who is helping out those who need it the most. And,’ Harry added jokingly, ‘I get to work in the sweetest department of the ship. But what I saw on my first field service in Guinea set a new purpose for me: little children who had to get by with just one meal a day, maybe not even that. I would love to bake bread for children like that. I’m not ready to retire. Let me bake bread, for the children.’

Harry’s Holiday Recipe: Stromboli
Harry shares a recipe that is perfect – and easy –  for the holidays. And his famous Stromboli suits Mercy Ships very well. Like the crew, it’s a fusion dish, combining many fantastic flavours.

– pizza dough (standard recipe)
– 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
– 2 spring onions
– 150 grams ham
– 100 grams mozzarella
– 100 grams grated Gouda cheese
– 1 egg beaten
– 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Start the recipe when the dough starts to rise:
1. Roll out the dough into an elongated piece and brush it with the mustard. Spread out the spring onions, ham, mozzarella, and Gouda cheese over the dough.
2. Roll up the dough from the long side with a rolling pin and place the rolling pin seam down on a baking tray with baking paper.
3. Cover the dough with beaten egg and spread out the parmesan cheese.
4. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and the cheese has melted.
5. Cut into pieces and serve the Stromboli.


Sinclair Carter, Second Engineer on the 16,000 tonne Africa Mercy, says his days were busy and never boring. They wouldn’t be. After a career at sea, Carter has recently returned from volunteering his maritime skills with Mercy Ships, the hospital ship charity dedicated to providing desperately needed surgical services and medical capacity building to the under-served in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Sinclair and Kathy Carter from Whangamata arrived onboard the Africa Mercy in Senegal, West Africa just before COVID-19 made a global impact

Published by Professional Skipper Magazine (Jan/Feb 2021 edition) 

‘The scale of the ship’s operations is massive,’ explains Carter. ‘The Africa Mercy is self-sufficient, with its own generators, firefighting, fuel and oil systems, sewage treatment plants and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems – all of which must function to support a crew of over 400. The ship also needs to power hospital facilities such as X-ray machines, CT scanners, and for the five operating theatres, five wards and axillary hospital services onboard. The free operations provided onboard for the poor include burns reconstructive surgery, cleft lip and palate reconstruction, benign tumour removal, paediatric orthopaedic corrections, womens’ health and cataract surgeries.
The technical crew makes up roughly 30 % of the volunteer crew onboard the Africa Mercy, which includes a large contingent of medics as well as operational crew. The engineering team plays a vital part in maintaining the operating platform so that surgical treatment can be carried out for people in the region without access to essential surgery.

‘It’s the best environment I’ve ever worked in,’ says engineer Carter, after a career at sea

‘With four main B & W engines along with the 4 MAN 21/31 generators, each of 3120kW, the engineering team maintains the constant power supply necessary to supply the operating theatres, air conditioning units are needed to keep the ambient temperature and electrical systems have to be maintained to all other areas of the Mercy Ship. There is an interdependency within the Africa Mercy, and the engineering team ensures the power to run the medical and other facilities onboard is always available.

‘As an engineer used to working in a commercial environment, one of the big differences on the Africa Mercy was the higher number of passengers – which includes medical and operational crew, and the 25 families of long term crew members who live onboard. This necessitates additional resources to manage the electrical, HVACR and sewage requirements. This means the engineering team includes electricians, plumbers and HVACR technicians. The hospital ship has its own medical waste incinerator and medical waste convertor which also require regular maintenance.’

Acquired by Mercy Ships in 1999, the Africa Mercy is almost 40 years old. The vessel was retrofitted from a Danish inter-island rail ferry to hospital ships. As a result, there are a few idiosyncrasies to contend with. Now carrying up to 400 passengers who live onboard, the need for air conditioning, sewage and water increased exponentially. Additional air conditioning units were placed throughout the ship which makes the maintenance of these units challenging due to their decentralised location.

‘Because a rail ferry doesn’t have large fuel requirements, when the ship was refitted, ballast tanks and dry tanks were used to hold the additional fuel required to operate a hospital ship. As fuel in Africa is not always readily available, the Africa Mercy tends to carry more fuel in the event of needing to sail urgently, explains Carter. ‘Using ballast and dry tanks, there would be a higher risk of contaminants and water ingress from wear and tear of pipes so extra maintenance was necessary to keep everything in good working order.

‘Direct access to the engine room was cut off when the operating theatres and hospital wards were built the same level as the rail ferry entrance and exits, creating a challenge to move materials and goods in and out of the engine room, now needing to be moved through the hospital area.’

Typically, Carter checked in with his team first thing in the morning and allocated work accordingly, knowing that generally within the first hour all planning would go out the window as more urgent work was needed first.

Training and mentoring is a primary goal for Mercy Ships in each host nation to help increase professional capacity in West Africa

One aspect of the role he says loved most was training the team and watching them learn. For many of the African volunteers this was the first opportunity to gain their certificates and to progress up through the ranks to the next stage of their career. Carter would often run evening training sessions for his ‘guys’ and there was always a roomful of attendees.

When doing his last round in the evening, he would often find one of the team studying, sometimes with one of their team mates who wasn’t even on duty. ‘Togetherness reigns; if one succeeds, they all succeed! No tall poppy syndrome there!’ he affirms.

Carter’s wife Kathy also volunteered onboard; as Deck and Engineering administrator. Originally their service was to be for three months, but they extended it – twice. Her role was to keep both technical teams running smoothly. She found it interesting and varied.

‘There were monthly rosters and changes to rosters as crews changed, and engineering reports which had to be provided on a weekly and monthly basis,’ Kathy explains. ‘Mercy Ships is registered under the Malta flag so any officer that starts has to have their credentials submitted to Malta for approval. It is also important that any information relayed at the meetings was passed on to the teams so I would attend the morning catch-ups with each team and pass on any information deemed necessary.’ Kathy says her work was very crew-orientated, with a lot of data entry and report writing – but also there was a bit of ‘camp Mother’ in looking out for the team. ‘The crew were all special and would come to ask for help for a variety of reasons. Of course, the Captain and Chief Engineer also had occasional requests that needed to be looked after,’ she adds.

In February 2020, several weeks shy of the Africa Mercy 10-month surgical schedule duration, the Carters arrived to the field service in Senegal, West Africa. ‘Patients were arriving daily for their surgeries, the hospital was full of patients and families and the sound of laughter and singing permeated the ship’s wards,’ recalls Carter.  Then suddenly in March, the unprecedented global spread of COVID19 required immediate contingency, and the NGO paused the field service for the health and wellbeing of crew and patients. Shore leave was cancelled and surgery wound up. The vessel relocated to the Canary Islands, where it remains in an extended period of maintenance, until their return to Senegal in April 2021. The charity quickly refocused their healthcare work for this period into eLearning and online training for their healthcare colleagues in West Africa.

‘Onboard, community life was very important, particularly whilst we were in lockdown,’ explains Carter.  ‘Everyone was very supportive to one another. There were regular activities organised to keep the morale up as many crew returned home. Life onboard was quite different to when we were in field service. Sad to leave, we finally departed the Africa Mercy in August after serving a total of six months.’

Deployment of the world’s largest civilian hospital ship – Global Mercy

The Carters are joining the newest Mercy Ship in February 2021 as the Global Mercy heads to sea trials

In February 2021 Carter steps into the volunteer role of Second Engineer aboard the new Mercy Ship; 37,000 ton Global Mercy™, soon to undergo sea trials. Once again Kathy will also join the vessel’s crew as Technical Administrator.

The Global Mercy™ is scheduled to begin the journey to Africa in 2021 and will also operate in the sub-Saharan region, complementing the work of the Africa Mercy. The ships will operate on a staggered cycle of six months, ensuring there is always one vessel in service. The first field service location will be in West Africa, providing desperately needed operations for people who have no other access to the healthcare they need.

The global backlog of surgery means there has never been a more urgent time for Mercy Ships to increase healthcare services. The deployment of the Global Mercy ™ will more than double the surgical care and medical training Mercy Ships can provide for people who live in low-income countries in Africa.

The Global Mercy ™  will be crewed by 600 international volunteers in medical, maritime and operational roles. The 174-metre vessel has two hospital decks and includes six operating theatres, six wards, isolation, auxiliary services – and an ICU suite sponsored by private donations from New Zealand.

In addition to providing six surgical specialties onboard, the medical capacity build teams will serve alongside their local colleagues, multiplying the impact of mentoring programmes. To enhance this capability the Global Mercy ™ will be outfitted with state-of-the-art training spaces featuring a simulation lab with virtual and augmented reality, mannequins and other surgical training tools. Significantly, a simulated post-op care space will allow trainers to reproduce local operating conditions and limitations in order to teach best practices in low-resource environments.

Mercy Ships has volunteer opportunities for maritime, medical and operational crew in 2021 and beyond to help the charity double their impact for the under-served poor in Africa. For further information visit

Download the print article Professional Skipper Jan-Feb 2021

Take a tour of the Global Mercy™ as the vessel is prepared for sea trials











Making free essential surgical care accessible to people in low-income countries is a bold undertaking which has just been made even more complex by the surgical backlog created by COVID-19.

Emmanuel Essah, Biomed Project Manager, teaches biomed trainees in Guinea, West Africa

Committed to doing more to meet the escalating need, not-for-profit Mercy Ships prepares to launch a second hospital ship in 2021, doubling the capacity to partner with low-income countries. Biomedical technicians play an important role in the charity’s strategy to help develop more robust healthcare infrastructures, to see increased healthcare services provided and to strengthen existing medical capacity in sub-Saharan Africa.

With 40 per cent of the world’s population living within 100 km of the coast, it makes sense for Mercy Ships to use ocean-going vessels as transportable heath care platforms for their work. Volunteer crew members provide free surgical services to a country for 10 months at a time, simultaneously offering mentoring and training programs for local healthcare professionals. Though demographically and vocationally diverse, the professionals who join Mercy Ships have a single determination to make a lasting, sustainable impact in the populations they serve.




Building medical capacity is a key strategy

When the existing flagship Africa Mercy docked in Emmanuel Essah’s home country of Benin, West Africa in 2009, he joined the crew as a translator. In due course he met one of the Mercy Ships health engineers, and asked ‘What does a biomedical engineer do?’  The crew member explained his responsibilities; the repair, calibration, maintenance and installation of the medical equipment onboard. Essah says, ‘By the time he finished explaining, I knew that biomedical engineering was something I wanted to pursue.’

Several years later, Essah still volunteers with Mercy Ships. As the vessel’s biomedical manager, he is also involved with training and upskilling other African health care engineers each nation Mercy Ships serves.

Essah is about to undertake an inspiring new project; managing the 2021 biomeds outfitting in the hospital of the new Mercy Ship Global Mercy ™. He keenly anticipates working alongside healthcare engineers from New Zealand and around the globe, colleagues who are passionate to make a real difference with their skills and training in a short term project. ‘It is a unique and exciting opportunity to be part of the team that will set up the medical equipment on the new ship. Being a biomedical engineer with Mercy Ships will challenge you,’ he states.


There has never been a more urgent time for Mercy Ships to double their services. Next year’s deployment of the newest hospital ship Global Mercy ™ will more than double the surgical care and medical training Mercy Ships can provide for people who live in low-income countries in Africa.

The Global Mercy ™  will be crewed by 600 international volunteers in medical, maritime and operational roles. The 174-metre, 37,000-tonne vessel has two hospital decks and includes six operating theatres, six wards, isolation, auxiliary services – and an ICU suite sponsored by private donations from New Zealand.

In addition to providing six surgical specialties onboard, the medical capacity build teams will serve alongside their local colleagues, multiplying the impact of mentoring programmes. To enhance this capability the Global Mercy ™ will be outfitted with state-of-the-art training spaces featuring a simulation lab with virtual and augmented reality, mannequins and other surgical training tools. Significantly, a simulated post-op care space will allow trainers to reproduce local operating conditions and limitations in order to teach best practices in low-resource environments.

maritime, medical and general volunteer roles with Mercy Ships


Healthcare engineers from New Zealand and around the world are applying now to volunteer aboard the Global Mercy ™  to spend from two weeks to a couple of months outfitting the ship’s hospital. Biomedical projects on location in port in Antwep* in 2021 include commissioning the range of patient-connected equipment used in a typical New Zealand hospital; high and low acuity wards, the ICU and ICU simulation/training suite, the laboratory, operating theatres, decontamination and sterilisation (CSSD/CPD), dental clinic, ophthalmic examination areas and more.

With the installation complete, commissioning and acceptance testing of the CT, digital X-ray, and ultrasound imaging systems will be undertaken. They will be tag-teamed by engineers specialising in respiratory maintenance engineering or with a solid general electronics background.

We know that’s a big ask especially in times like these, when uncertainties abound, health and economic challenges are constant and the thought of overseas travel seems impossible – but we know you! Your hearts are big so we know you’ll give it some thought.

The journey to serve with Mercy Ships takes time and serious consideration which is why, if you are interested in exploring what’s involved, you can find more information about volunteer opportunities on the Global Mercy ™

maritime, medical and general volunteer roles with Mercy Ships

*Updated location since the article was published in December, 2020

Published  with thanks to Institute of Healthcare Engineering magazine, posted October 2020

 NOTE: The Africa Mercy is preparing to return to Senegal in 2021 after the field service was paused in March, 2020 due to COVID-19. The vessel is currently undergoing maintaience and systems upgrades in the Canary Islands.

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Nursing children on the Africa Mercy is the highlight of Wellington nurse Robyn Ferguson’s volunteer experience

It was time for a new professional challenge and a different kind of experience. As Robyn Ferguson searched for a volunteer nursing opportunity to ‘give back’ using the skills gained over her extensive nursing career, she found Mercy Ships – the hospital ship charity providing surgical care in Africa for patients who would otherwise have little access to essential services.

The Wellingtonian was inspired by her three-month tour-of-duty in 2010; now she is a familiar face among the 450-strong international crew. The most recent field service in Senegal, West Africa – paused due to COVID-19 – was Robyn’s ninth time volunteering on board the Africa Mercy.

The hospital ship has five operating theatres, 80 ward beds, intensive care, and all the required auxiliary services to treat patients in the specialities provided; ophthalmic, maxillofacial, paediatric orthopaedic, women’s health, burns and plastic reconstruction, and paediatric general surgery. Other services include mental health, oral health, palliative care, and Ponseti treatment for babies born with clubfoot.

For ten months at a time, the self-contained floating hospital provides free care in low-income countries where healthcare resources are usually inaccessible and unaffordable. ‘The long queues of people at the Mercy Ships screenings show how desperate people are for treatment; many have walked for days to get there,’ explains Robyn.

One of the unique aspects of the Mercy Ships wards is the level of interaction between the patients; people who were strangers before admission.  Robyn clarifies, ‘Patients support each other and follow cues from others who have been in the ward longer. It is very community-based. In western countries, people want privacy from others and would not think of asking another patient what to do, or they would not want to be seen to interfere.

‘As patients don’t speak English we have ward translators, but they are not medically trained. I have be known to resort to making up my own sign language to show patients what needs to be done. When caring for obstetric fistula patients who needed perineal/catheter care, I had the habit of indicating time for this treatment by saying and acting ‘Wash.’ One day a patient asked for Mama WashWash, which apparently was me!’

The Mercy Ships hospital processes were familiar to Robyn from the beginning. ‘There are nurses from across the globe with different nursing backgrounds and styles, so on board care pathways guide our day-to-day care for different specialities, similar to pathways used at home. There are policies and procedures to follow such as hand hygiene, infection control, IV therapy, all in line with my nursing experience.’

‘The equipment is similar. I was surprised to see more BP machines on the ward of 20 patients than that on the ward of 30 that I had left in New Zealand.

Robyn mentors Elyse, a ward assistant from Madagascar

When asked about what was most surprising aspect of nursing on board, Robyn was quick to reply, ‘How easily the patients accept us. They come into an unfamiliar environment, not speaking or understanding the language, and not knowing what the outcome of their surgery will be. After seeing other patients’ reactions, they are encouraged. They relax and settle in, letting us hold their hands and accepting hugs. They sing and dance and laugh. One day I gave a hug to a lady who was crying. When she settled, the patient in the next bed put her arms out for a hug too. Then I had to give a hug to all the ladies in the ward. This became a part of my working day.’

Mentoring and teaching

With an emphasis on mentoring and teaching, Mercy Ships leans on the experience of professionals like Robyn to strengthen the healthcare capacity of the host nation. She explains, ‘If we were doing surgery without mentoring, teaching and training, then change won’t occur. We help nurses, doctors and technicians learn new skills. We provide protocols like the WHO Safe Surgery Checklist, the importance of hand hygiene and specific surgical techniques. Local colleagues teach this to others, improving on what they are already doing.’

While patients experience physical healing through the surgeries they receive, they often find much more. For many, access to surgery means finding hope again. Patients frequently report that the level of personal and unconditional care provided by the Mercy Ships nurses is a deeply meaningful boost to their holistic recovery. Mothers and fathers are able to return work and provide for their families. Children can go to school. Community relationships are restored.

‘I love Africa,’ Robyn declares, ‘… the people, community spirit, the sights and sounds, the chaos and the acceptance. I make friends in each of these countries, and they stay with me always.’

Global Mercy to be launched

As the global backlog of surgical care has escalated during COVID-19, there has never been a more urgent time for Mercy Ships to double its services for people who live in low-income countries in Africa. The deployment of a new Mercy Ship Global Mercy ™  next year will more than double the surgical care the not-for-profit can provide to people with little other access to the essential services they require.

The new Mercy Ship is close to completion and will be on the water in 2021. The Global Mercy ™  will have state-of-the-art technology and instrumentation, six operating theatres and 199 hospital beds.

Healthcare mentoring and developing capacity in host nations is a critical part of all Mercy Ships programmes and to facilitate this, Global Mercy ™  will have a training centre that includes a simulation lab, virtual reality stations, and the latest teaching equipment.

It is a very big ship and, for the volunteers, an experience potentially quite like no other. 600 crew members from across the globe will power the new ship, which has ample accommodation to make nurses, surgeons, maritime crew, cooks, teachers, electricians, technicians and all our other essential people feel at home.

Over the next 50 years, it is estimated that more than 150,000 people’s lives will be changed onboard the Global Mercy ™  through surgery alone, with countless more lives helped by the ship’s medical training and infrastructure programmes. In close collaboration with host nations in Africa, the Global Mercy ™ , together with the Africa Mercy, will more than double the charity’s work.

Published with permission of Kai Tiaki, NZNO, December 2020

Find out more  about volunteer opportunities for paediatric, theatre, wound care and other nurse specialists with Mercy Ships for 2021 and beyond.

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VLOG: Dental student Balde Souleymane takes us on a motorbike through the backstreets streets of Conakry, Guinea (West Africa) as we head to meet his class at Gamal University. Balde shares some remarkable recent developments in the dental training program that will impact the oral hygiene of the West African nation for many years to come.


Today is Giving Tuesday, the largest giving day in the world, and we’re so excited to be part of it this year. We’ve achieved a lot in 2020, and have a powerful vision for the communities of West Africa for 2021 and beyond.

To help make that vision real, we’re aiming to raise $10,000 in just 24 hours and need your help to get there.


Five-year-old twins, Osseynou and Assane came to the Africa Mercy for help in straightening their bow legs.

This is a condition that can develop, or be made worse, through nutritional deficiencies. This is why the Mercy Ships Food for Life programme is every bit as important and life-changing as the surgeries we perform.

This programme works with members of local communities to improve their food supplies and their knowledge of good health and nutrition practices; meaning fewer children are likely to need surgical intervention on this, and other conditions.

The money raised on Giving Tuesday this year will go to training costs, tools and equipment for the Food for Life students.


Please help us help these amazing, caring, determined people to provide a healthy, happy, football-filled future for these kids by making your special gift now.




TWICE THE JOY : Video story about twin boys Ousseynou & Assane who developed identical orthopaedic conditions that drew the ridicule of young and old in their community. While the condition could have been prevented with good nutrition, it could only now be corrected with major orthopaedic surgery. The huge-hearted community nurse heard hope was on the horizon and drove the boys and their mum hundreds of miles seeking help on the Mercy Ship

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As the world’s largest purpose-built charity hospital ship joins the Mercy Ships fleet serving Sub-Saharan Africa, Janine Stewart discusses the uniques challenges of building a hospital ship with Chris Gregg, Managing Director of the #GlobalMercy

Ship Building: Expanding mercy – Mercy Ships nears completion of the MV Global Mercy


Written by Mercy Ships Board Chair Janine Stewart and Irene Kim, of MinterEllisonRuddWatts Construction Division

With thanks to CILT NZ magazine of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, published December 2020.





the Global Mercy

Join Jim Paterson as he story-tells us on a tour of the Global Mercy. The world’s largest civilian hospital ship readies for sea trials as Mercy Ships prepares to double the hope and double the impact.


Find out more about the Global Mercy

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