Even as geopolitical fault lines become stark due to tensions between China and the Western world, their noble collaboration in building the world’s largest civilian hospital ship aimed at helping the poor is nothing short of a silver lining.
The ship ‘Global Mercy,’ the largest civilian hospital ship in the world, made its African debut on May 27 in Dakar, where it will train health personnel for four weeks, Chinese media CGTN reported.
It is the latest entrant to the Mercy Ship Charity program that operates the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world.
The massive ship, constructed at the Tianjin Xingang shipyard of China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) in northern China, had many sub-contractors involved in the project, including from Europe, America, and the wider Asian region.
The ship is 174 meters long and 28.6 meters broad and has about 12 decks. It will remain in Senegal’s capital until June end before returning in 2023 to serve disadvantaged and poor people with surgical care.
Global Mercy is Mercy Ships’ second vessel of its kind, set to join Africa Mercy serving in Africa since 2007.
Senegalese President Macky Sall welcomed the Global Mercy on May 30 at a ceremony attended by Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and Comoros President Azali Assoumani.
The arrival of the giant ship coincides with the latest tragedy that has rocked the country and exposed the flaws in the tits health care system, crushed under the weight of pandemic-induced distress.
On May 25, eleven newborns were charred to death in a fire at a public hospital in Tivaouane noted Africa News.
The crew onboard the ship plans to train 260 Senegalese health professionals during their stay in Senegal, alongside the crew of the Africa Mercy, which has been at the port of Dakar since February and plans to stay at least till November, performing surgeries on board.
The Global Mercy will then return to the Canary Islands at the end of June for a “complete and final dressing of the ship.”
Mercy Ships will make a come-back in early 2023 to provide training and surgery in areas such as maxillofacial and reconstructive surgery, tumor removal, cleft lip and palate repair, obstetric fistula repair, and more.
Global Mercy — A Feather In CSSC’s Cap
The complex vessel’s design, contracting, and construction oversight have all been handled by Stena RoRo, a company based out of Sweden.
“We have applied one of our concepts on a ship from the RoPax-class, which are passenger and freighter vessels for international voyages, and modified her into a pure passenger ship with hospital capabilities,” said Per Westling, CEO of Stena RoRo AB.
“Instead of a card deck, we’ve built operating rooms and hospital wards. The ship will have space for about 950 persons with everything needed for both patients and those who work onboard, including grade schools and nursery schools for the children of staff.”
The role of the Chinese Ship Building Industry also comes into the focus, which was the ‘chosen one’ for building the world’s largest civilian hospital ship, despite the involvement of other subcontractors.
China’s commercial shipbuilding industry — the largest in the world — has been engaged in the construction of ships along its shoreline for years. It has also acquired the capital and technological know-how to construct increasingly sophisticated models of all types of naval ships through foreign contracts over the years that it has been engaged in expanding its industry.
The 'training wheels' are off! The Global Mercy passed her Sea Trials, and the Mercy Ships crew is preparing the world's newest hospital ship for her first open water voyage!
— MERCY SHIPS NZ (@MERCYSHIPSNZ) May 9, 2021
“For a few years now, our team has consisted of up to 16 members, stationed at the Tianjin Xingang shipyard,” said Stena project leader and site manager Rikard Olsson, who has been working on the project in China since 2016.
“For this shipyard, this is the first time this kind of ship, which can be compared to a cruise ship, has been built. We have worked hard to meet the required standard and everything has gone very well”, Maritime Executive reported.
After several years of construction in Xinjiang, the mammoth ship completed its sea trials in May last year. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 93 percent of the population lacks access to quality surgical treatment, and the coronavirus pandemic has put local resources under strain. A civilian hospital ship with advanced features could thus fill the vacuum tremendously.
The Global Mercy hospital covers about 7,000 square meters and includes “six operating theatres, 102 acute care beds, seven intensive care beds, and 90 convalescent beds,” according to a statement from Mercy Ships, which works relentlessly to improve access to health care in developing countries in Africa.
The project began in 2013 with Stena RoRo, a Swedish shipping company, in charge of the project’s design, contracting, and execution.
The broker was French Barry Rogliano Salles, BRS, the detailed design was done by Finnish Deltamarin, and the ship was built in China at the Tianjin Xingang shipyard. The Global Mercy will sail under the Maltese flag and operate along the African coast.
Six operating theaters, 200 hospital beds, a laboratory, a patient clinic, and an eye and dental clinic are all available at the Global Mercy. The ship will have a total capacity of 950 persons, including 640 crew members.
The ventilation system has been specifically tailored, with an emphasis on reducing vibration and noise. Since the ship would be in port for long periods, enormous cranes have been installed to allow it to take on containers containing provisions, vehicles, and other equipment. Four Wärtsilä 32 engines will power the vessel.
Amid news of global animosity flooding the internet every day, an international collaboration for providing health care to the needy is a rather welcome development.