VESSEL REVIEW | Global Mercy – 37,000GT newbuild is world’s largest civilian hospital ship

Photo: Mercy Ships
Photo: Mercy Ships

Global health charity Mercy Ships recently took delivery of Global Mercy, the largest purpose-built civilian hospital ship.

Designed by Finland's Deltamarin, the 174-metre, 37,000GT vessel was handed over by China State Shipbuilding Corporation's (CSSC) Tianjin Xingang Shipyard to its new owners in June 2021 following its sea trials. Construction oversight services were provided by Stena RoRo of Sweden.

<em>One of the six onboard operating rooms (Photo: Mercy Ships)</em>
One of the six onboard operating rooms (Photo: Mercy Ships)

The Malta-registered, Lloyd's-classed Global Mercy was designed from the outset to be capable of providing comprehensive health care services, especially in parts of the world where access to such services is severely limited. The vessel is thus equipped with six operating rooms capable of facilitating a diverse range of surgical procedures including but not limited to cleft lip and palate repair, cataract removal, orthopedic procedures, facial reconstruction, burn contracture release, and dental procedures.

<em>ICU bed area (Photo: Mercy Ships)</em>
ICU bed area (Photo: Mercy Ships)

Up to 199 patients can be accommodated on board. Patient beds are distributed among separate sections for 102 acute care patients, seven ICU patients, and 90 self-care patients. Facilities are also available for pre-operative and post-operative work. Such facilities include X-ray and CT scan rooms, a screening/admissions centre, a rehab centre, and outpatient care centres.

"Designing a ship to accommodate comprehensive hospital facilities is something that had not been done before," Deltamarin marketing director Esa Jokioinen told Baird Maritime. "There are several requirements of hospital functions that would affect the design of the ship and vice-versa."

"Hospital operations placed large and specific requirements, which affected both the hull and the layout of the interior," Mercy Ships added. "In addition, the ventilation system had to be especially adapted and focus had to be placed on minimising vibration and noise."

<em>Guest lounge (Photo: Mercy Ships)</em>
Guest lounge (Photo: Mercy Ships)

Nonetheless, the designers and the owners were able to collaborate effectively, and the result is a fully equipped vessel that is also capable of long international voyages.

"Some of the challenges in the design process was due to the terminology used," said Jokioinen. "Some of the terminology for passenger vessel rules and regulations required special interpretations. For example, there are not really passengers and crew onboard the vessel – only 'staff.'"

Jokioinen added that many of the lessons the design team learned as regards incorporating a hospital onboard a ship can be used more widely in accommodating entirely new functions on future vessels.

<em>Ward (Photo: Mercy Ships)</em>
Ward (Photo: Mercy Ships)

The ship is also fitted with cranes for taking on containers with provisions, vehicles, and other equipment needed for periods of as long as 10 months in port. An integrated Furuno bridge electronics package is installed along with automatic water mist systems from Semco and smoke/fire detectors from Consilium.

Personnel board and disembark via a specially designed gangway that is capable of adjusting to piers of various heights. This feature enables the ship to berth at ports of various infrastructure layouts, which then allows a greater number of people to access the health care facilities that are available on board.

<em>Photo: Mercy Ships</em>
Photo: Mercy Ships

The vessel is powered by a diesel-electric configuration consisting of four diesel engines, fully-redundant electrical propulsion, and two ABB podded thrusters. The diesel engines also come with vibration dampening features to minimise disturbances in the surgical rooms and the other onboard hospital spaces.

"Diesel-electric propulsion was chosen to give us maximum flexibility utilising the total installed power," Mercy Ships' senior marine consultant Jim Paterson told Baird Maritime. "The vessel will spend long periods at berth with low demand on actual propulsion. Since we comply with passenger ship regulations, the propulsion system must meet Safe Return to Port (SRTP) requirements."

Paterson added that exhaust gas economisers are also fitted to heat thermal oil for all heating requirements.

In addition to functioning as a hospital ship, Global Mercy was also designed to operate as a training platform for doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. The training spaces includes a simulation lab that can replicate local conditions and limitations in order to teach best practices in low-resource environments.

<em>Auditorium (Photo: Mercy Ships)</em>
Auditorium (Photo: Mercy Ships)

The ship is manned by 641 personnel including the core crew and medical professionals. The ship services such as mess facilities are designed to host up to 950 people. Other crew facilities include a 682-seat auditorium, a classroom, a gymnasium, a cafe and shop, a pool, and a library.

To maintain the cleanliness of the onboard environment, the vessel relies on a specialised AC and ventilation system with energy recovery features, advanced equipment for rubbish and hazardous substance disposal, and filtering and treatment systems for converting AC condensate water into potable water. The onboard comfort level was designed to conform to DNV's COMV V(2) passenger ships notation.

Global Mercy has been at the Port of Antwerp since early September and is being outfitted with IT and medical equipment installations and soft furnishings. Mercy Ships volunteer crew will also begin to join the ship in stages during this phase. The ship will commence regular hospital operations in 2022, and its main area of operations will encompass sub-Saharan Africa, a region known to be lacking in critical surgical facilities.

<em>Photo: CSSC</em>
Photo: CSSC
Global Mercy
Type of vessel:Hospital ship
Owner:Mercy Ships, Switzerland
Designer:Deltamarin, Finland
Builder:Tianjin Xingang Shipyard, China; Stena RoRo, Sweden
Hull construction material:Steel
Superstructure construction material:Steel
Deck construction material:Steel
Length overall:174 metres
Beam:28.6 metres
Draught:6.1 metres
Deadweight tonnage:4,300
Gross tonnage:37,000
Main engines:4
Propulsion:2 x ABB thrusters
Alarm/monitoring system/s:Consilium smoke/fire detectors
Other electronics:Furuno
Other equipment installed:AC system; ventilation system; Semco water mist systems; rubbish disposal; hazardous substance disposal; AC condensate filtration and treatment systems; elevating gangway; exhaust gas economisers
Type of fuel:Diesel
Accommodation:6 x operating rooms; acute care bed section; ICU bed section; self-care bed section; screening/admissions centre; outpatient area; X-ray room; CT scan room; crew clinic; classroom; locker rooms; offices; simulator lab; recovery room; rehab room; gymnasium; auditorium; cafe/shop; guest lounge; pool; library; mess

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