Mercy Ships announces the Global Mercy, the world’s largest purpose-built hospital ship, as cathedral project becomes reality

Following the model of Jesus, Mercy Ships tackles global surgery injustice, by building the world’s largest charity-run hospital ship.

In 1978, Don and Deyon Stephens left everything to follow Jesus and pursue a childhood dream. Don imagined a fleet of hospital ships, crewed by professionals from every nation – all volunteering to sail to the planet’s neediest ports to serve the forgotten poor and offer their expertise, without regard to race, colour, gender or creed. Don writes: “One day my imagined crew came to life before my eyes and, amazingly, made the dream set sail.”  

Don Stephens, the founder of Mercy Ships, calls this medical ministry a “Cathedral Project”, passed from one generation to another, just as great cathedrals are built by many generations spanning decades…

October 2020 – Mercy Ships announced the latest addition to the fleet, and the next chapter in this story of faith: The Global Mercy. Scheduled to set sail to West Africa in late 2021, the Global Mercy will be the world’s largest purpose-built hospital ship.

Rosa Whitaker, the president of Mercy Ships says: “The Global Mercy will be a true modern marvel— a fully custom-built hospital ship with customised instruments, state-of-the-art technology and highly-trained talent of a modern hospital. It also represents a unique call-to-action for anyone called to serve, and it presents the opportunity for people to use their skill set to positively impact global healthcare.”

In the UK, we have experienced a fleeting glimpse of what it feels like to have access to essential medical services restricted or unobtainable over the past few months. However, worldwide, this is the daily reality for two out of three people, who cannot access surgery when they need it, because they cannot afford it; they cannot access it, or it is simply not available in their country. Tragically, as a direct result, more than 17 million people die every year from curable conditions that could have been treated by surgery.

Mercy Ships believe access to healthcare is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. This is why Mercy Ships provide free surgeries and strengthen fragile healthcare systems – empowering local professionals with advanced skills.

Their vision is to use hospital ships, crewed by volunteers, to transform lives and serve nations. They achieve this by reducing the surgical backlog in developing countries, while also providing training and mentoring to African doctors and nurses, and renovating local medical facilities in each of the countries they visit. 

It is through this pioneering vision that Mercy Ships has been able to change and save lives for over 40 years. One such life was Adama, a young mother from Guinea. Adama developed cataracts whilst she was pregnant with twins and, by the time she gave birth, she was completely blind. Unable to access the simple surgery that would restore her sight, Adama would never see her new family. It was not until Adama received a free, 20-minute procedure from Mercy Ships that she was able to see her children’s faces for the first time. She described seeing her children for the first time like “waking up in paradise”.

For four decades, this ministry has been made possible by charitable donations from individuals and local churches, as well as the predominately Christian volunteers who provide world-class surgical care to those in desperate need, completely free of charge. These volunteers literally help the blind see, the lame walk, and outcasts return home with dignity and hope for the future. The stories of lives changed could easily be lifted from the pages of the Gospels. 

Over the Global Mercy’s projected 50-year lifespan, it is estimated that more than 150,000 lives will be changed onboard through surgery alone. In addition to providing surgeries, the Global Mercy will be outfitted with state-of-the-art training spaces, including a simulation lab with virtual and augmented reality, and other cutting-edge training tools, which allow trainers to simulate local conditions to teach best practices in low-resource environments.

The 174-metre, 37,000-ton ship will have six operating rooms and house over 600 volunteers from around the globe, representing many disciplines, including surgeons, anaesthetists, maritime crew, cooks, plumbers, nurses, teachers, host staff and more. The ship will also feature a 682-seater auditorium, student academy, gymnasium, pool, café, shop and library – all of which have been designed to accommodate up to 950 crew onboard, when docked in port.

The Global Mercy will join the current flagship Africa Mercy, more than doubling the impact of volunteers and services provided by the charity.  The Global Mercy is undergoing the final stages of construction, with the aim of sailing into active service by the end of 2021.

For more information about Mercy Ships, updates on Global Mercy, or how to volunteer or donate, please visit:

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