A little mercy

COMMENT: I’m going to hijack this Viewpoint for something not strictly related to ports. That said, the topic does involve a ship, which does dock at ports in Africa, so I’ll make that my tenuous link, writes Carly Fields.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Mercy Ships last month and was touched by the passion and drive of this charity. It isn’t one of the high-profile shipping-related charities, but that does not make its life-changing work any less significant.


Mercy Ships operates the world’s largest private hospital ship, serving in some of the world’s poorest countries. On its website (mercyships.org.uk), there’s a host of stories about the life-changing procedures and operations performed on board, like that of 55-year-old Sambany. He walked for two days to get to the Africa Mercy ship in the hopes that a tumour – weighing 7.46 kg, the largest the volunteer surgeons had ever seen – could be removed. After a gruelling 12 hour operation, Sambany was tumour free. Countless others have similar stories.


With a crew of more than 400 volunteers from over 40 nations, Mercy Ships describes its Africa Mercy ship as a small city. It’s moored in Benin at the moment, offering free medical treatment to those who do not have access to first world medical staff and the skills that they bring.


Mercy Ships’ roots lie in the purchase of a retired ocean liner back in the seventies for £600,000. Founders Don and Deyon Stevens spent four years transforming the liner into a hospital ship with three operating theatres and a 40-bed ward. That original ship was replaced by the Africa Mercy in 2007.


Now, a further ship is under construction and Don’s aim is for it to be debt free when it is launched in 2018. The ship will serve alongside the Africa Mercy, more than doubling the capacity for the operations and procedures that Mercy Ships is able to carry out.


At the anniversary celebrations, I met a charismatic shipbroker from Barry Rogliano Salles. He, along with his colleagues, had spearheaded a ‘Cargo Day’ initiative on October 19 where the shipping and trading community could pledge cargoes, make donations or share their commission in favour of Mercy Ships. The initiative had raised $134,982 when I checked on October 20, a great achievement and funds that Mercy Ships will be delighted to put to good use.


These donations were, in the main, from shipbrokers and ship owners. Just imagine what could be raised if ports organised their own initiative. Please watch the videos and read the stories and if after that you too feel that our sector should and could add its support to this life-changing organisation, send me an email at editor@portstrategy.com.


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