Home > News > The MSC Foundation, the MSC Group and Mercy Ships International join forces to build a new hospital ship

The MSC Foundation, the MSC Group and Mercy Ships International join forces to build a new hospital ship


The new purpose-built hospital ship will expand the impact of Mercy Ships’ life-
changing surgeries, anaesthetic care and surgical education for future
generations of patients and healthcare professionals in sub-Saharan Africa.

A groundbreaking agreement between MSC Group, MSC Foundation and the
charity Mercy Ships International prepares for the construction of a brand-new
hospital ship that will deliver free surgery and training annually to thousands of
people in Africa.
On 8 April, the chairman of MSC Group and MSC Foundation, Capt. Gianluigi
Aponte, Diego Aponte, MSC Group President and Member of the MSC Foundation
Board, and Mercy Ships Founder Don Stephens finalised an agreement to kickstart
this new project with a generous anchor donation from MSC Foundation,
reflecting the visionary leaders’ commitment to supporting access to critical
healthcare for the generations to come.
“I spent part of my childhood and early years in the shipping industry in the
Horn of Africa, it is a region close to my heart. I saw firsthand the challenges
faced by many local communities there and this shaped my conviction that
improving the availability of healthcare would bring real and lasting impact for
them. It has been extremely gratifying to work with Don and provide this crucial
support through his unique organisation Mercy Ships, our partnership has
reaped extraordinary results already and now we are on the verge of
expanding their fleet to increase this support. I truly look forward to seeing this
new ship set sail to help more communities across Africa”
said Capt. Aponte,
Founder of the MSC Group. 

Since Mercy Ships was founded in 1978, the organisation has provided more than
117,000 transformational specialised surgical procedures. These surgeries include
maxillofacial reconstructions, contracture release for severe burns, correction for
orthopaedic problems in children, cleft lip and palate repair, ophthalmology and
dental services. Mercy Ships, a non-governmental organisation, is also committed
to boosting the capacities of local healthcare systems through sustainably
designed surgical education, training, and advocacy programs. Mercy Ships has
provided additional training to more than 54,300 local professionals in their areas
of expertise.

Expanding its fleet with a new purpose-built hospital ship, designed to similar
specifications as the Global Mercy™ with a focus on designated training spaces,
will allow Mercy Ships to increase its capacity to collaborate with host nations in
training and advocacy efforts.

The need to accelerate access to surgical care and surgical education in sub-
Saharan Africa remains very apparent. In his welcome speech at the recent West
African College of Surgeons (WACS) conference in Freetown, Vice President
Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh of Sierra Leone stated that the country is still grappling
with 91% unmet surgical needs. Highlighting the progress already made, he urged
collaborative efforts to tackle surgical deficits.

Don Stephens, Founder of Mercy Ships, confirmed Mercy Ships’ vision for serving
African nations with safe surgical care and education. “The investment of many
around the world towards a fleet of hospital ships will be enhanced by the
future of our new purpose-built vessel. The mission of Mercy Ships to bring
Hope and Healing is only possible by the generosity of our partners, volunteer
crew, and the provision of God. Today, I am grateful to MSC for their support.”

Operating hospital ships involves transporting large quantities of essential
supplies across oceans and seas to continuously support surgical and training
activities. MSC and Mercy Ships have been partners since 2011, with the MSC
Group ensuring logistical support and container delivery of supplies to all ports of
service. The infrastructure support and logistical expertise provided by its teams
in Africa ranges from MSC’s local shipping agency and MSC and TiL terminals
handling cargo to MSC and MEDLOG logistics, storage, and inland transportation
services. In addition to this, MSC have provided extensive technical advice and
experience in preparation for the new vessel, working with Mercy Ships to develop
a design that will improve efficiency for the organization’s needs.

The new ship will feature living spaces to accommodate approximately 600 crew
members and guests on board. Its hospital will span two decks and 7,000 square meters, featuring six operating rooms, a fully equipped laboratory, and state-of-
the-art training spaces such as a simulation lab. This makes it possible for Mercy
Ships to strengthen local surgical systems during its time in port, typically a 10-
months field service.

Gert van de Weerdhof, CEO of Mercy Ships said: “This new hospital ship will bring
state of-the-art equipment and facilities to support the nations we serve. This
new vessel and her future crew will enable us to meet surgical needs, while
supporting host nations as they develop healthcare systems with their next
generation of medical professionals.”

Diego Aponte, MSC Group President and a Member of the MSC Foundation Board,
said, “I have always been passionate about Africa and I was struck by the
extraordinary and honourable nature of Don’s initiative when it was first
presented, and these made me want to be involved in a significant way. Mercy
Ships brings tangible and concrete support to thousands of families across the
region, and with MSC Group’s major presence there we have a duty to give
back to the local communities. This vessel is yet another milestone in our vision
to support the African continent with achieving a truly prosperous and
sustainable destiny.”

“As the world’s largest shipping company, the MSC Group’s global reach and
unparalleled expertise in seafaring and logistics align seamlessly with the
noble goals of Mercy Ships, amplifying the power of compassion across
borders. At the start of this partnership over 12 years ago, we understood that
we were uniquely positioned to free up Mercy Ships to focus on its
humanitarian work in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Daniela Picco, MSC Foundation Executive Director, said: “We are extremely proud
of our support for Mercy Ships through grant-making and in-kind donations
and of the transformative impacts their free services and training have had on
18,000 medical professionals and community leaders, and 30,300 patients of
all ages through 33,200 surgeries since 2011.
“When the discussion started with Mercy Ships’ Founder Don Stephens to build
a new ship together, I was delighted to facilitate this game-changing
commitment to accompany Mercy Ships into the coming decades.”

Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the MSC Foundation is the philanthropic
entity of the MSC Group. Established by the Aponte family in 2018, the Foundation
supports causes in environmental conservation, community support, education,
and emergency relief. Its mission is to use MSC’s global reach and knowledge of
the sea to take action that contributes to protecting and nurturing the blue planet
and its people. For more information, visit: www.mscfoundation.org and follow us
on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, is
a global leader in transportation and logistics, privately owned and founded in
1970 by Gianluigi Aponte. As one of the world’s leading container shipping lines,
MSC has 675 offices across 155 countries worldwide, with the MSC Group
employing almost 200,000 people. With access to an integrated network of road,
rail, air, and sea transport resources which stretches across the globe, the
company prides itself on delivering global service with local knowledge. MSC’s
shipping line sails on more than 300 trade routes, calling at 520 ports, and is
targeting net zero decarbonization by 2050. For more information about our
journey to net-zero please visit: www.msc.com/sustainability 

Mercy Ships operates hospital ships that deliver free surgeries and other
healthcare services to those with little access to safe medical care. An
international faith-based organization, Mercy Ships has focused entirely on
partnering with African nations for the past three decades. Working with in-
country partners, Mercy Ships also provides additional training to local healthcare
professionals and supports the construction of in-country medical infrastructure
to leave a lasting impact.   
Each year, more than 3,000 volunteer professionals from over 60 countries serve
on board the world’s two largest non-governmental hospital ships, the Africa
Mercy® and the Global Mercy™. Professionals such as surgeons, dentists, nurses,
health trainers, cooks, and engineers dedicate their time and skills to accelerate
access to safe surgical, obstetric and anesthetic care. Mercy Ships was founded
in 1978 and has offices in 16 countries as well as an Africa Service Center in Dakar, Senegal.

For more information, visit mercyships.org and follow @MercyShips on
social media.