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A cargo of hope and healing

A cargo of hope and healing

September 29, 2016; World Maritime Day: Mercy Ships acknowledges the critical link between shipping and global society, and recognizes the thousands of maritime crew who have donated time and skills to take life-changing surgeries to their point of need in the developing world.

Cotonou, Benin: In recognition of World Maritime Day, Mercy Ships applauds the thousands of maritime officers and ratings from New Zealand and around the world who have volunteered their services onboard the floating hospitals of Mercy Ships. Since 1978 they carried a cargo of hope and healing to more than 70 nations.

At 16,572 tonnes, Africa Mercy is around the size of a Cook Strait ferry. The state-of-the –art hospital ship provides a transportable platform for the international volunteer crew including a dozen New Zealanders. They deliver essential surgical procedures and health care services for the poorest people in Africa’s coastal cities.

In 1999 the former Danish rail ferry underwent an extensive donor-funded dockyard conversion and was redeployed in 2007 as the world’s largest civilian hospital ship.

Volunteering on the Mercy Ship in Madagascar provided many unique experiences for ship designer Patrick Clissold. Currently working as a civilian ship designer for the NZ Navy at the Babcock dockyard, the former British Navy engineer found his tasks on board the Mercy Ship last year much more hands on. Shifts were varied and included plumbing, welding and general maintenance of the hospital ship machinery. He loved the vast multicultural mix in the Africa Mercy engineer department, and appreciated the chance to put into practice much of what he usually creates in theory.

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“I very much enjoyed it,” Clissold comments. “The hands-on role very much opened my eyes to how designs actually work on board a ship. It was a different aspect to what I usually do in my professional life. “

“The engineering department was 30 people from very different backgrounds doing and enjoying the same work. I 100% recommend it. The work is a good thing to do.”

Clissold was impacted by the destitution he witnessed in Madagascar. “There is only one ship right now, and only so much we can do. It feels like a drop in the ocean, but it’s better than doing nothing!”

The 450-strong crew of medical, maritime and operational volunteers provided almost two thousand free, life-changing surgeries for Madagascar’s poor during the Clissold’s field service. For the ten months in port this include cataract removal/lens implants, tumour removal, cleft lip and palate reconstruction, orthopaedics and obstetric fistula repair.

Clissold is once again putting his money where his mouth is and will be running the Auckland Marathon in aid of Mercy Ships bringing hope and healing to the world’ s poor. Sponsorship link

Video : Engineer ‘s mercy story (55 sec)

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Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, capacity building and sustainable development to those with little access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1 billion, treating more than 2.56 million direct beneficiaries. The Africa Mercy is crewed by 400 volunteers from up to 40 nations, an average of 1000 each year. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. With offices in 16 nations, Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time.


Every year the International Maritime Organization (IMO) celebrates World Maritime Day. Each World Maritime Day has its own theme, emphasising a particular aspect of the IMO’s work. 2016’s theme “Shipping – Indispensable to the world” was chosen to focus on the critical link between shipping and global society and the importance of shipping to support and sustain today’s global society with significance that reaches far beyond the industry itself.

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