Antwerp port to fit out world’s largest hospital ship


The Global Mercy, under construction in China, will be heading to Flanders to be kitted out with wards and operating theatres for treatment and medical training in Africa

Aid capacity to double

The world’s largest hospital ship will be created at the Port of Antwerp this year. The port is offering its facilities free of charge to the charity Mercy Ships, which provides medical care and training in developing countries.

The 37,000-ton Global Mercy is being built at the Chinese port of Tianjin, and is due to finish sea trials and be delivered to the charity in the spring, after which it will sail to Antwerp to be kitted out as a floating hospital. It was originally intended to be completed in the Philippines, but the pandemic has led to logistical problems in the region.

Bert Van Dijk, the chair of Mercy Ships Belgium and the charity’s international board, asked the Antwerp port authorities if the work could instead be carried out in Flanders.

“We have a good link with the Port of Antwerp,” Van Dijk told De Standaard. “They are very fond of our project.” All the necessary facilities such as tug boats, pilots and mooring will be provided by the port for free, and dozens of local companies will be involved in the work.

Social commitment

Fully kitting out the Global Mercy should take between three and five months. Once complete, it will be the largest private hospital ship in the world, with 200 beds and six operating theatres across 12 floors, and will more than double the work Mercy Ships can carry out. The pandemic may have a further impact on the ship’s schedule, but it is due to head to Liberia as the ship's first African port of service.

“The intention is that the ship will last for 50 years,” Van Dijk said. “As soon as the Global Mercy is ready, [Mercy Ships’ existing vessel] the Africa Mercy will receive maintenance and a makeover in South Africa, and then immediately get back to work. From then we can work in two places at the same time.”

Dozens of companies, inside and outside the port, have already announced that they want to participate in this unique project

- Jacques Vandermeiren

For 10 months a year, Mercy Ships docks in African ports to treat patients and train health-care workers when the necessary resources or opportunities are not available locally. More than 600 volunteers from 50 countries work on board.

“With this project, we want to underline the port’s social commitment,” said port CEO Jacques Vandermeiren. “Dozens of companies, inside and outside the port, have already announced that they want to participate in this unique project. Together we are making a contribution to the population of Africa with whom the port has a strong connection.”

Photo: The Global Mercy under construction at the shipyard in Tianjin, China
(c) Mercy Ships

Port of Antwerp

The port of Antwerp is Europe’s second-largest port and one of the world’s most important ports for container traffic.
Going green - The port’s first-ever sustainability report won it the Award for Best Belgian Sustainability Report.
Size - The port takes up more space than the actual city of Antwerp.
Roots - Historians have found evidence for the port’s existence dating back to the 12th century.

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