Even though the global pandemic has kept the Africa Mercy docked in the port of Granadilla Spain for extended annual maintenance, the maritime crew onboard ship are busier than ever. Recently, seven deckhands became Deck Ratings and four Deck Ratings became certified Able Seafarers on the Africa Mercy. Their accomplishments were honored in a ceremony onboard.

Captain Djurre Jan Schutte at the Deck crew promotion ceremony

On average, the Maritime Training Program offers training to 150 crew members and staff each year. This innovative training program ensures that deck crew are qualified to meet the legal staffing requirements and that they are set on a path to well-respected careers. International maritime requirements insist that maritime crew be trained and licensed. By offering the training free of charge to committed deck and engineering crew, Mercy Ships not only ensures that those maritime standards are met but demonstrates how much it values maritime volunteers. Mercy Ships is known for providing free, world-class surgical care to people throughout West and Central Africa while partnering with healthcare workers through medical training and mentorship programs. Mercy Ships also supports a dynamic and sustainable training support to invest in the maritime volunteers from many nations who help keep the ship running.

Members of Deck on the bow during the arrival to Dakar.

“Without Deck and Engineering, the hospital on the ship is not going to function. Our job is to keep the ship as the platform so other programs can do their job. The dedication of our marine crew to keeping the Africa Mercy as a safe and functioning vessel is vital to the medical mission of Mercy Ships,” says Marcos Dos Santos, the Mercy Ships Maritime Training Manager.

Kim Sanchez, Academy Student, working in the Deck department during the sail.

Kim Sanchez (Philippines) was recently promoted to Deck Rating onboard. He came as a student with his parents who applied to serve onboard. After graduating from the accredited K-12 school on the Africa Mercy in 2019, he says that the transition from student to Deckhand was smooth. “The training was a time to gain more experience and insight into what the job looks like and [how it] could prepare me to be ready 24/7 for emergency response.” For Kim, working on the mooring deck was the most challenging as following proper procedures was essential to staying safe. With continued training, Kim hopes to one day become an officer.

Abdulai Sesay, Deck Hand, on the Bridge wings during the sail.

Abdulai Sesay (Sierra Leone) is now a certified Deck Rating. When he first applied to Mercy Ships, he came to work in Housekeeping and then later in the Dining Room. After three years, Abdulai decided to join the Deck Department.“I was not expecting to be in the maritime industry. When I came onboard the ship, they gave [me] that opportunity. You can work at the same time and get training. This kind of thing was amazing. During his training, Abdulai appreciated the approachable nature of the training officers. He says he found they were encouraging and sought to make the instruction easy to understand. It is because of the training opportunities available through Mercy Ships, that Abdulai is one step closer to his maritime career goal: “For now, I’m a Rating, but I’m trying to get my AB [Able Bodied Seafarer Certification], and when I get my AB, I’m targeting to become an officer.”

The unique environment that Mercy Ships offers its maritime crew is not like many other opportunities describes Nic Gardner, Second Officer. As Safety Officer as well, Gardner states, “Because of the workload, low manning and industry pressure, most commercial ships have very little time and few resources for training.” However, the “Africa Mercy deck department prioritizes training. The officers and experienced deck crew support people working towards various qualifications, and we have dedicated time and resources –including a training officer onboard.”

For more information on applying to serve as part of the volunteer maritime crew with Mercy Ships, see our www.mercyships.co.za/volunteer or email us on: info.zaf@mercyships.org

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