MSC Foundation, MSC Group, and Mercy Ships International Collaborate on New Hospital Ship

On April 8, 2024, Captain Gianluigi Aponte, Diego Aponte, and Don Stephens signed a deal to build a new hospital ship in Africa by collaborating with MSC Group, MSC Foundation, and Mercy Ships International. The project is set to provide free surgery and training to thousands annually.

“I spent part of my childhood and early years in the shipping industry in the Horn of Africa, it is a region close to my heart,” said Captain Aponte, founder of the MSC Group, said. “I saw firsthand the challenges faced by many local communities there and this shaped my conviction that improving the availability of healthcare would bring real and lasting impact for them. It has been extremely gratifying to work with Don and provide this crucial support through his unique organization Mercy Ships, our partnership has reaped extraordinary results already and now we are on the verge of expanding their fleet to increase this support. I truly look forward to seeing this new ship set sail to help more communities across Africa.”


  • Mercy Ships was founded in 1978 and has performed 117,000+ specialized surgeries
  • Procedures include maxillofacial reconstructions, orthopedic corrections, cleft lip repairs, and more
  • The NGO has trained 54,300+ professionals to enhance local healthcare systems
  • A new hospital ship, designed like the Global Mercy™, is in progress to expand training capabilities

Don Stephens, founder of Mercy Ships, said, “The investment of many around the world towards a fleet of hospital ships will be enhanced by the future of our new purpose-built vessel. The mission of Mercy Ships to bring Hope and Healing is only possible by the generosity of our partners, volunteer crew, and the provision of God. Today, I am grateful to MSC for their support.”

Since 2011, MSC and Mercy Ships have partnered to provide crucial logistical support in Africa, including container delivery, cargo handling, and transportation services. MSC has also offered technical advice to improve the efficiency of the new vessel’s design.

The new ship will accommodate approximately 600 crew members and guests, with a hospital spanning two decks and 75,347 square feet. It will feature six operating rooms, a laboratory, and training spaces like a simulation lab to enhance local surgical systems during its 10-month field service.

“This new hospital ship brings state of-the-art equipment and facilities to support the nations we serve,” said Gert van de Weerdhof, CEO of Mercy Ships. “This new vessel and her future crew will enable to meet surgical needs, while supporting host nations as they develop healthcare systems with their next generation of medical professionals.”