Why 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.

About our hospital ships

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

Currently, Mercy Ships operates two hospital ships. The Africa Mercy and the Global Mercy.

The Global Mercy is the largest charity-run hospital ship in the world. The 174-meter, 37,000-ton ship has six operating rooms and houses over 600 volunteers from around the globe representing many disciplines including surgeons, maritime crew, cooks, teachers, electricians, the host staff and more. The ship also features a 682-seat auditorium, student academy, café, shop and library – all of which have been designed to accommodate up to 950 crew onboard when docked in port.

The Africa Mercy contains five operating rooms, a four-bed recovery area, intensive care for up to five patients, and 80 ward beds. It 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.

Take a tour of the Africa Mercy!

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.