The world’s largest civilian hospital ship will start full operations treating some of Africa’s poorest in Senegal in January after completing a refit.

The 37,000-gt Global Mercy (built 2021) will return to the country where the vessel was inaugurated in July at a ceremony overseen by Senegalese President Macky Sall.

The new ship has six operating theatres and 102 acute care beds. Its volunteer staff will carry out radiology, screening, rehab and outpatient care.

The charity operates mainly in West Africa and is designed to bring high-quality healthcare to port cities where a proper medical infrastructure does not exist. Mercy Ships found that two-fifths of district hospitals it surveyed did not have adequate power or clean water to carry out routine surgery.

In Senegal, the Global Mercy will replace the charity’s second ship, the 16,572-gt converted rail ferry Africa Mercy (built 1980), which will head to Durban for its own refit.

Founded in 1978, Mercy Ships has been active in more than 55 developing countries, providing medical care that it said has directly benefited more than 2.8m people.

The charity spent a total of £6.7m ($7.25m) in 2021 on free medical treatment and surgery, according to the charity’s latest accounts.

Double impact

Bryce Wagner, the charity’s executive director, said the new ship will require a greater push for funds and the volunteer doctors needed to staff the vessels throughout the year.

“If we’re going to more than double our costs, we have to more than double our impact,” Wagner said.

“We’re transitioning between the two ships but, by the start of 2024, both ships will be in Madagascar and Sierra Leone at the same time.

“We need to run both ships with 3,000 volunteers over the course of the year.”

Wagner was speaking before a shipping gala dinner in Geneva, Switzerland, where some $500,000 was raised from a charity auction and tables paid for by some of the biggest names in shipping.

The charity handed out awards to the winners of its annual Cargo Day fundraising operation when shipbrokers and charterers are encouraged to donate part of their commission to the charity.

Nyala Shipping, Trafigura, Clarksons Platou and Eastern Pacific Shipping were given awards for raising the most cash during the 2021 event. Scorpio Tankers received a prize for the company’s work with the charity since 2019.

Lars Dencker Nielsen, chief commercial officer at Scorpio, said bringing the industry together for a common cause brought “hope and healing to the forgotten poor”.

The industry event in Geneva has raised more than $5m for the charity since 2016.