Why Hospital Ships?

Why use hospital ships?

Worldwide, 5 billion people lack access to safe, affordable, timely surgery. Many of them live in developing countries where healthcare infrastructure is limited or nonexistent, or where there’s a shortage of trained healthcare providers.

Fortunately, more than 44% of the world’s population lives within 100 miles of a coast — which is why Mercy Ships uses modern hospital ships to bring world-class volunteer medical professionals directly to the places they’re needed most.

Our ships are the most efficient way to bring a state-of-the-art hospital to regions where clean water, electricity, and medical facilities and personnel are limited or nonexistent. Instead of trying to build the facilities we need to bring life-changing surgeries to ports around the world, we can provide a safe, stable, fully outfitted hospital ship to help change the odds for thousands of people in need.

We also train local healthcare providers and improve medical infrastructure. And we even stock our ships with a supply of vehicles so we can reach remote areas!

Take a tour of the ship!

About our hospital ships

Since 1978, Mercy Ships has had one to three ships in service.

Currently, the Africa Mercy is the only ship in service. It is the largest charity-run hospital ship in the world, with greater capacity than all our previous ships combined. It contains five operating rooms, a four-bed recovery area, intensive care for up to five patients, and 80 ward beds. The Africa Mercy houses about 400 volunteer crew members from up to 40 nations.

Acquired in 1999 through a donation from the Balcraig Foundation, the former Danish rail ferry Dronning Ingrid was refurbished specifically for our mission and named the Africa Mercy in April 2000.

A brief history of our previous ships
Line drawing of the ANASTASIS


Our story began with our flagship Anastasis, formerly the Italian passenger liner the Victoria. The ship was converted to house three operating rooms, a hospital ward, dental clinic, lab, X-ray unit, and three cargo holds. Anastasis visited 275 ports and conducted 66 field assignments in 23 nations from 1978 to 2007.

line drawing of CARIBBEAN MERCY


Her first 42 years were in Norwegian waters as the Polarlys, but after joining Mercy Ships the Caribbean Mercy served in Central America and the Caribbean basin from 1994 to 2006. With an eye surgery unit, capacity for 150 while in port, and conference and seminar facilities, the ship visited 137 ports and conducted 56 field assignments in 13 nations during her service.

Line drawing of Island Mercy


The former Newfoundland coastal ferry Petite Forte was donated to Mercy Ships in 1984. Christened the Good Samaritan, she served the Caribbean and Central and South America. Following renovations in 1994 — including the addition of two operating rooms — she was renamed Island Mercy and served the South Pacific until 2001.