The first metal has yet to be riveted together, but a $150 million medical ship project will give Mercy Ships the largest state-of-the-art vessel of its kind to help provide medical treatment to the poor around the globe.
Peter Schulze, Mercy Ships vice chair/treasurer, executive committee member and managing director of the board, said the project is not expected to be completed until 2017 when the ship — now labeled The Atlantic Mercy — is turned over to Mercy Ships.
Schulze said the organization, based in Lindale, began looking at its capabilities and needs, and saw that another ship was needed.
He said the project has been in the works for several years, but now the actual building is in the near future as contracts have been signed and a third of the cost for the ship has been raised.
Each year Mercy Ships provides medical assistance and treatment to poor regions around the globe.
Schulze said the new ship will double the capabilities of the current medical program with the organization.
“This is going to more than double the capacity to serve the poor with state-of-the-art facilities we can move anywhere in the world,” he said. “This will be custom built with a longer service life than refurbishing an older ship like we did with the Africa Mercy.”
The ship is scheduled to be built by the China Shipbuilding Industry Corp. at the Tianjin Xingang Shipyard outside of Beijing, China, with delivery of the ship in June 2017.
When asked why the ship was being built in China, Schulze said, the Chinese company’s price was very favorable, but he added the Chinese have become very prolific in ship building, and their craftsmanship rivaled competitors from around the globe.
The 36,600 Gross Register Tonnage ship will measure just over 570 feet in length and house 452 beds for crew, families and other visitors.
Schulze said the ship will have five operating rooms as does the African Mercy — the organization’s other medical ship — 105 hospital beds and 40 additional medical beds.
The African Mercy has 77 hospital beds and Schulze said the new ship will be more like a standard hospital in measurements.
“It will have wider halls and larger rooms and be more like a regular hospital,” he said.
Mercy Ships was founded in 1978 by Don and Deyton Stephens and has worked in more than 70 countries, providing services valued at more than $1 billion for 2.42 million people.
Schulze said the $150 million is being raised from private donors, foundations and some corporations. He added that a sizable portion of the money is being raised in East Texas.
Schulze said the final name will be determined during the building of the ship.
“The name The Atlantic Mercy is just the name we have given the project. We will decide the name at a later date,” he said.