The world’s largest civilian hospital ship is scheduled to arrive in Antwerp on Sunday after completing a voyage through the Suez Canal.

The 37,000-gt Global Mercy, the first-ever purpose-built newbuilding for hospital ships charity Mercy Ships, sailed from China in late July.

It received free passage through the canal with the help of the Senegalese and Egyptian governments and arrived in its home port of Malta on 2 September.

The Valetta call marked 40 years since the charity’s first ship, Anastasis, visited in 1982 and Mercy Ships said the visit’s “main purpose was to say thank you to Transport Malta for over 40 years of excellent service” having been flagged with the island since its inception.

The Global Mercy, which was built at Tianjin Xingang shipyard, will be further equipped in Antwerp before it starts its first service in spring 2022.

The ship, which is expected to operate for 40 to 50 years, will be fully equipped with six operating theatres, hospital beds for 200 patients, a full laboratory and simulation training areas.

Final outfitting will include installation of medical equipment and IT systems, and stocking with supplies will be completed in Rotterdam.

The Global Mercy will then sail to Africa for commissioning in Dakar, Senegal, followed by its first field service.

The ship’s deployment with 600 volunteers aboard will allow Mercy Ships to more than double its current medical impact after a refit to its existing ship, the converted ro-ro ferry Africa Mercy.