MV Africa Mercy

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Africa Mercy
  • 1980-1999: Dronning Ingrid
  • 1999-2000: Ingrid
  • 2000 onwards: Africa Mercy
Port of registry:
Route: Serves on the west coast of Africa
Builder: Helsingørs Værft AS, Helsingør, Denmark
Maiden voyage: Monrovia, Liberia
In service: 2007
Identification:IMO number7803188
Status: In service
General characteristics (after 1999 rebuild)
Tonnage: 16,572 GT
Length: 152.00 m (498 ft 8 in)
Beam: 23.70 m (77 ft 9 in)
Draught: 6.00 m (19 ft 8 in)
Installed power: 4 x B&W diesels
Propulsion: 2 x controllable pitch propellers
Speed: 18.5 knots
Capacity: 484
Crew: 450

The MV Africa Mercy is a 152.00 m (498 ft 8 in), 16,572 GT Hospital Ship belonging to the humanitarian organization Mercy Ships.[1] Converted from the rail ferry MS Dronning Ingrid in 2007, she is currently the world's largest non-governmental floating hospital.[2] It is the newest ship to enter service with Mercy Ships, which has been outfitting and operating hospital ships that serve developing nations since 1978.

Design and capabilities[edit]

The Africa Mercy project started in March 1999. A former rail ferry named Dronning Ingrid (Queen Ingrid) was bought in Denmark for 6.5 million USD, through a donation from U.K. businesswoman Ann Gloag's Balcraig Foundation.[3] Dronning Ingrid is the first of three identical ships built for DSB (Danish State Railways). The other ships are the Kronprins Frederik and the Prins Joachim.

The ship was fitted out at the Cammell Laird shipyard at Hebburn in Tyneside, England.[4] The ferry's large train deck facilitated its conversion into a hospital ship.[5] Over the next few years, the Dronning Ingrid was transformed into the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world, at a final cost of over 62 million USD. Although Mercy Ships has now retired all its earlier ships, the Africa Mercy has greater capacity than all three of its previous ships combined.[3]


The eight-deck Africa Mercy's lower decks are a modern hospital with five Operating theaters, an Intensive Care Unit, an Ophthalmology unit, a CT scanner, x-ray, laboratories, and a recovery ward with beds for 82 patients. In addition to the ship's lab capabilities, ship physicians can consult with pathologists in the U.S. via satellite communications.[6]

On its upper decks,[7] the ship has accommodations for 484 crew members including families, couples and individuals. The ship has 126 cabins, a day care center, a school for all ages up through the last year of high school, a library, a launderette, a small supermarket, a restaurant, a gymnasium, shops and a donated Starbucks cafe. A fleet of 28 vehicles travels with the ship, for use in Mercy Ships land-based operations.[8]

The initial provisions that were loaded aboard the Africa Mercy included 3992 kg of breakfast cereal, 419 kg of coffee, and 26.8 tons of frozen meat and fish (which was an estimated four months' supply).[9] Today, the supply chain for the Africa Mercy stretches halfway across the globe. To keep the Africa Mercy provisioned involves shipping to the floating hospital at least 24 40-foot (12m) containers per year, equipped with everything from medical devices and medical supplies to food and furniture. Containers are filled at Mercy Ships headquarters in Garden Valley, Texas, and shipped from the port of Houston, or they are filled and shipped from Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Temperature-sensitive supplies like vaccines and media plates are often transported via air, in rolling ice chests that travel with Mercy Ships staffers who are en route to the Africa Mercy.[10]

Surgical and Medical Care[edit]

The ship is set up to provide onboard surgical care, an Intensive care unit and a recovery ward. Land-based medical operations provide patient screenings for surgeries, health and dental care, mental health programs, and palliative care for terminally ill patients.[11]

The operating rooms of the Africa Mercy are equipped for specific surgeries that are greatly needed in the countries that the ship visits. These surgeries can also be performed efficiently and repeatedly.[12] Conditions treated on board the ship include head and neck tumors, goiters, hernias,[13] cleft lip and palate, cataracts, crossed eyes (Strabismus), bowed legs (genu varum), club foot, burns and burn scars, childbirth injuries[14] and the gangrene-like childhood disease called noma.[15] Because medical care is so scarce in the countries that Mercy Ships serves, these medical conditions often become severe enough to be disfiguring, which means that patients are often shunned by their communities.[16] The surgical correction of their medical problems assists patients in reintegrating with their communities and resuming normal lives.[17]

On land, a screening clinic is set up to evaluate potential patients for surgeries, often in a large area like a sports arena.[16] Volunteers set up medical and dental clinics to treat people in the surrounding communities. A HOPE Center established near the ship provides extended medical care to patients.[14] In addition, volunteers train local healthcare workers in providing primary healthcare, and they teach workers to train others in providing healthcare.[18] During its Madagascar Field Service in 2014 / 2015, Mercy Ships volunteers performed 1269 free surgeries on board, taught 431 participants in various Health Care Education courses, had 42 participants in Health Care Education Mentoring which included surgeons, nurses, doctor and nurse anesthetists, a dentist and sterile and lab technicians. 5141 dental patients received 22,028 procedures for tooth decay and infections, 958 received dental hygiene services and 368 received dentures. Mercy Ships will return to Madagascar for the 2015-2016 Field Service.

Infrastructure Projects[edit]

Between October, 2014 and June, 2016, "Mercy Ships" volunteers in Toamasina, Madagascar also renovated buildings; one at Hospital Kelly and two at hospital CHUT including renovations of an operating block (4 theatres), biomedical/Ponseti/physical therapy building, allied health and nursing training facility and septic/sewerage system, water distribution system, roads and sidewalks at the local CHUT. Additionally, at a site near the capital, volunteers trained 56 agricultural trainers during two 21-week courses in organic farming, food preservation techniques to help communities to achieve sustainable food production. They trained 34 orphanage workers and community farmers during a two practical courses in Toliara. 464 community leaders were taught during two leadership courses. In addition to medical and surgical care, agriculture training and infrastructure projects are an important component of the ship's mandate.

During the Africa Mercy’s 10-month stay in the port of Cotonou, Republic of Benin, from August, 2016 through June, 2017, Mercy Ships plans to provide over 1,700 life-changing surgeries for adult and child patients on board, to treat over 8,000 at a land-based dental clinic, and provide holistic healthcare training to Beninese health care professionals.

Volunteer Crew[edit]

Like past Mercy Ships vessels, the Africa Mercy is staffed entirely by volunteer crewmembers. Mercy Ships volunteers assume responsibility for all the costs of their trip to the Africa Mercy, including round-trip airfare and other travel costs, immunizations, passports, insurance and fees for room and board.[12]

Approximately 400 people live and work aboard the Africa Mercy. In addition to surgical and medical services, volunteers handle every task in the daily life of the ship, including crew operations, maintenance and repairs, cooking, housekeeping, childcare, teaching, and the Mercy Ships health education and infrastructure development projects that take place on land. Volunteer postings for a wide range of jobs generally range from two weeks to two years in length. In addition, some crewmembers serve as permanent staff on board the ship for the entire 10 months of each field service. Annually Mercy Ships has more than 1,600 volunteers helping in locations around the world. That includes more than 900 volunteers from 45 nations serving each year in Africa with 400 of those on board the Africa Mercy at any given time. About 200 Africans also serve as day-workers on the ship.[19]

Volunteer crewmembers also serve as blood donors for the ship's surgical procedures. When they arrive at the ship, their blood types are tested and recorded. They are paged when surgeries requiring their blood types are scheduled, and they donate blood immediately before the procedure.[20]

Field Service History[edit]

In 2007, the ship made its official maiden voyage to Monrovia, Liberia, from the shipyard in England.[21] Africa Mercy remained in Liberia for its 2008 Field Service.

In 2009, the ship was docked in Cotonou, Benin from February to December, providing free surgeries and medical care. Mercy Ships also worked with Beninese citizens on agriculture and water development projects.

Early in 2010, the ship was docked in Lomé, Togo for the 2010 Field Service.

In August 2010, the Africa Mercy went into shipyard in South Africa, where it was equipped with new, more efficient generators.

The Africa Mercy served in Freetown, Sierra Leone for 10 months for its 2011 Field Service,[22][23] At the conclusion of each Field Service, the Africa Mercy goes in to dry dock, where it is resupplied and receives any needed repairs or upgrades before heading to its next port of call.[24] In December 2011/January 2012 the maintenance period was spent in Ghana.

Africa Mercy was operating in Lomé, Togo from January to June 2012, then in Conakry, Guinea from August 2012 to June 2013.[25]

The Africa Mercy was docked in Pointe Noire, Republic of Congo, from August 2013 to June 2014.

The Africa Mercy was docked in Toamasina, Madagascar from October 2014 until June 2015. The vessel returned to Madagascar in October 2015 was docked there until June 2016.

The Africa Mercy was in Cotonou, Benin from August, 2016 through June, 2017.

The Africa Mercy was docked in Douala, Cameroon, from August 2017 through June, 2018.

The Africa Mercy is docked in Conakry, Guinea from August, 2018 through June, 2019

In Pop Culture[edit]

A 2014 documentary film and 2016 documentary TV series, both titled "The Surgery Ship", were created based on the real-life events filmed onboard the MV Africa Mercy.


  1. ^ "m/v Africa Mercy".
  2. ^ "Africa Mercy sails from UK to Africa," article, Shipping Times, 4 May 2007, Retrieved 23 September 2011
  3. ^ a b "Mercy Ships Launching the Africa Mercy," article, 21 March 2006, Retrieved 14 September 2011
  4. ^ Anna Pukas, "Miracle of the Mercy Ships," article, UK News, Retrieved 19 September 2011
  5. ^ "Hope Floats," article, Ability, accessed 12 September 2011, pp. 26-29.
  6. ^ "Hope Floats," interview with Johannes Bernbeck, Ability, accessed 12 September 2011, pp. 26-29.
  7. ^ Susan Stewart, "Jennifer Brodie and Brian Anderson...serving the world's poor one volunteer at a time," article, JournalPLUS, June 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  8. ^ Dan McDougall, "Hands Across The Ocean," The Sunday Times (U.K.). Retrieved 5 September 2011.
  9. ^ "AFRICA MERCY sails from UK to Africa," article, Shipping Times, 4 May 2007, Retrieved 23 September 2011
  10. ^ Claire Bufe, "Save Lives on the High Seas," Material Handling & Logistics, May 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  11. ^ Claire Bufe, "Save Lives on the High Seas," article, Material Handling & Logistics, May 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2011
  12. ^ a b Susan Stewart, "Jennifer Brodie and Brian Anderson...serving the world's poor one volunteer at a time," article, JournalPLUS, June 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2011
  13. ^ Angie Holmes, "Marion nurse volunteers on floating hospital in West Africa," SourceMedia Group News, 18 June 2011,, accessdate 13 September 2011
  14. ^ a b Mary Nugent, "Chico couple volunteers on floating hospital ship in Africa," article,, 18 July 2011, Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  15. ^ Molly Gray, "Columbus anesthetist helps sick in Africa," The Columbus Dispatch, 27 June 2011, Retrieved 14 September 2011
  16. ^ a b Angie Holmes, "Marion nurse volunteers on floating hospital in West Africa," article, Eastern Iowa Life, 18 June 2011, Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  17. ^ Linda Friedel, "Nurse serves in Sierra Leone," article,, 14 June 2011, Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  18. ^ Becky Voss, "Former Syracusan volunteered on private hospital ship in Sierra Leone," article, The Post-Standard, 11 August 2011, Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  19. ^ Mary Nugent, "Chico couple volunteers on floating hospital ship in Africa," article,, 18 July 2011, Retrieved 31 August 2011
  20. ^ "Student Serves on Mercy Ship," press release, Cedarville University, 10 August 2011, Retrieved 11 September 2011
  21. ^ Kadilak, Karen (14 July 2011). "Mercy Ship experience transforms Harmony volunteer". Article. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  22. ^ "Sierra Leone: Nation Honors Mercy Ships Founder". Article. Concord Times (Freetown). 30 May 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  23. ^ "Africa Mercy Welcomes Sierra Leone President, Vice President and Minister of Health". Article. International Daily. 2 June 2011.
  24. ^ "Crew Members Ralph and Kay Crew". Article. The Pioneer. 2 June 2011.
  25. ^ "Mercy Ships New Zealand". Retrieved 4 May 2015.

External links[edit]

Media related to MV Africa Mercy at Wikimedia Commons