The global shipping and trading community will join forces once again in November to raise vital funds for the hospital ship charity Mercy Ships. Vessel charterers, brokers, agents, owners, operators and others will participate in the annual Cargo Day which since 2016 has raised almost $4 million for the essential work that Mercy Ships undertakes.
This is an important year for Mercy Ships which is outfitting in the Port of Antwerp a new hospital vessel, the purpose-built, 37,000-gross ton (gt) Global Mercy. When in service next year, Mercy Ships will more than double its impact in providing free medical care for some of the world’s poorest people in Africa alongside training support for African medical professionals.
On top of the capital costs of the newbuild, raised largely from private and corporate donors, additional funds are needed each year to provide direct medical services and operate the new ship which will have six operating theatres, six hospital wards, radiology, screening and admissions, rehab and outpatient care plus training facilities.
Mercy Ships already operates a converted rail ferry, the 16,572-gt Africa Mercy which will also continue in service.
Over the last 18 months, the shipping and trading industry has faced some very tough challenges because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but recent months have seen some sectors, especially dry bulk, enjoying stronger returns.
Spot rates in the capesize market, for example, have reached 13-year highs.
It is hoped that this optimism will be reflected in a broader range of companies participating this year in Cargo Day, which since its launch five years ago has enjoyed support especially from ship charterers, brokers and owners working with tankers.
Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has been active in more than 55 developing countries, providing services valued at over $1.7 billion and directly benefitting more than 2.8 million people.
Already, the Africa Mercy draws volunteers from over 60 nations—an average of more than 1,200 volunteers each year including surgeons, nurses, dentists, healthcare trainers, cooks and teachers, as well as seafarers.
Mercy Ships Global Association Executive Director Bryce Wagner says that without initiatives like Cargo Day and partners such as the shipping industry, Mercy Ships would be unable to finance the thousands of surgeries it performs and extensive training of local doctors and nurses.
How does cargo day work?
Cargo Day is scheduled for November 10. On that date and in the following weeks charterers give cargoes (Mercy Cargoes) to participating shipbrokers who find vessels to carry the shipments of oil, iron ore, coal, containers, and other cargoes.
These brokers, port agents and inspection companies then contribute 50% of their commission to Mercy Ships.
Pledges of money and address commissions are also welcomely received.
Ludvig Mandius, Geneva-based chartering manager for commodity trader Trafigura, describes his earlier visit to the Africa Mercy as “an amazing trip, an experience I will cherish for ever.”
The “whole operation (Mercy Ships) is just an amazing thing,” he says.
Each year some 16.9 million people die due to lack of access to surgical care, says Mercy Ships.
A large percentage of these deaths are in Africa’s developing nations where the fragile healthcare systems simply cannot support the overwhelming need for safe, surgical procedures.
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