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Hospital ship Africa Mercy

A remarkable donation in 1999 saw the Africa Mercy acquired  and put into service in 2007. The vessel saw a great increase in capacity to serve, with 5 operating theatres and 82 ward beds. This former ferry converted into a floating hospital makes it possible to offer surgeries to Africa of a level equivalent to those that can be obtained in a regional hospital in New Zealand.

The hospital ship is like a small village, with a school for the children of volunteers, a bank, a kiosk and even a hairdresser! The Africa Mercy is dedicated to increasing access to surgical services on the African continent.

Africa Mercy

Facilities and Features


The hospital covers most of the original rail deck – approximately 1,200 square metres. It is divided into quadrants containing supply/services, five operating rooms, a four bed recovery, intensive care for up to five individuals and 80 ward beds. The volunteer crew provides free surgical procedures on board including cataract removal/lens implants, tumour removal, cleft lip and palate reconstruction, orthopaedics (club feet and bowed legs) and Women’s Health (including obstetric fistula repair), Plastic, General surgeries as well as some Ambulatory Day Surgery procedures. The hospital contains a CT Scanner, X-ray, and laboratory services which support the surgical service.

Crew and Accommodation

The Africa Mercy has meeting and work spaces as well as berths for an average crew of 400 from up to 40 nations serving onboard at any given time. The 16,500 ton vessel has had over 4,900 crew from 74 countries serve onboard since its inception in 2007. The 474 berths are split between 26 family cabins, 25 two-berth cabins for couples and shared and single cabins for individual occupants.

Safety & Security

The vessel is fitted with an automatic sprinkler system throughout the accommodation and hospital areas. An addressable smoke detector system pinpoints the exact location of the source of any potential fire. Machinery spaces are covered by CO2 gas flooding system as well as a “Hi Fog” system which can be very effective in controlling localised fires in the machinery space. Gurkha security guards man the gangway 24 hours a day with metal detectors and other screening devices. They are backed up by CCTV around the vessel, while critical spaces such as the bridge and engine room remain locked at all times.


Acquired in 1999 through an initial Balcraig Foundation donation, the ship was re-named the Africa Mercy by Dame Norma Major in April 2000.

The £30 million ($62 million USD) refit of the former Danish rail ferry Dronning Ingrid into the Africa Mercy was made possible through a matching grant from the Oak Foundation, ongoing support from the Balcraig Foundation, corporate gifts-in-kind, trusts and individual contributors.  The conversion was completed at A & P Shipyard, Newcastle-upon-Tyne in March 2007. The refit was deemed the largest conversion project of its kind in the UK.
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Key facts


The Africa Mercy and
the Global mercy are
the world’s largest
hospital ships


As many as 1,550
volunteers from
60 nations serve
on board our fleet in
a normal year.

Since Mercy Ships
was established in 1978,
more than 2.86 million
people have benefited
from the services provided.

FAQ (todo)

Energy-efficient LEDs in light fixturesLow sulfur marine fuels help reduce contaminants Sailing at low speeds between ports to reduce carbon emissions Complying to international (MARPOL 73-78) standards, with regulate what ships do with waste, oil, sewage, garbage and air pollution.

Mercy Ships currently complies with many maritime industry standards that regulate what the ships do with waste, oil, sewage, garbage and air pollution — one of which is the I nternational Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships Maritime Pollution (MARPOL 73-78) standards. Additionally, to lower its CO2 footprint, Mercy Ships utilizes marine fuels that meet the International Maritime Organization (IMO) 0.5% Sulphur cap – which helps reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, the ships also sail at low speeds between ports.

Jim Paterson
Jim Paterson
Senior Consultant Marine Operations, Mercy Ships

Interview with Jim

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The ventilation in the hospital is fairly sophisticated with special filtration in places as well as positive and negative pressure gradients, depending on the space, to control airflow in to our out of a space to reduce the potential spread of airborne infection. The data network throughout the ship is very extensive but particularly in the hospital area to facilitate communication with different finds of equipment and the possibility to send information shore side for quick diagnosis where necessary. We have incorporated a “Patient Veranda” on the aft end of deck 4 (hospital deck) where recovering patients can go outside if they wish.

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Sunday service program
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Africa Mercy Specifications

152 m
23,7 m
Gross Tonnage
6.0 m
Crew capacity
Cargo Capacity
3 holds 3,060 ms total
Main Engines
4 B&W (3120 KW chacun)
Built by
1980 Elsinore, Danemark
Surveyed by
Lloyd’s Register

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