Cargo Day, new ship in China and looking ahead to doubling capacity feature in landmark event
Mercy Ships celebrated its 40th anniversary with a London ball attended by founders Don and Deyon Stephens.
The event — staged at a venue close to Trafalgar Square, attended by more than 300 supporters of the hospital ship charity and which generated £145,000 ($193,000) — was marked by a special message from UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who was attending the G7 summit in Canada at the time.
Even Virgin Group magnate Richard Branson contributed to the evening by donating a holiday at his private retreat in South Africa’s Sabi Sands Game Reserve for inclusion in the evening’s fundraising live auction.
But the star attraction was the presence of Don and Deyon Stephens, who took the opportunity to meet up again with Ann Gloag, co-founder of the Stagecoach passenger transport group, and who funded the purchase of the 16,572-gt hospital vessel Africa Mercy (built 1980).
Speaking to TradeWinds, Don Stephens said he wanted to “express his personal gratitude and appreciation to the greater world of shipping” for the Mercy Ships Cargo Day, an annual fundraising event that has raised $1m for the organisation in its first two years.
Don Stephens said the Cargo Day, in which TradeWinds is a partner, was proving to be one of the charity’s most significant annual functions.
Mercy Ships UK executive director Lea Milligan described it as “an incredible initiative”, which pulls together so many parts of the shipping industry “that have a passion to see lives changed”.
Milligan said: “One million dollars — let’s make it six.”
Mercy Ships UK chairman Henry Clarke said during the dinner: “It is such a thrill to see the lame walk, the blind see, the unloved loved, and the hopeless live in hope of healing and opportunity.”
He then read a message from the UK prime minister.
“I am very happy to give my personal support to Mercy Ships,” Theresa May wrote. “I would like to thank and encourage the many volunteers, including from the UK, for their contribution to make the world a better and healthier place.”
Don Stephens talked about how Gloag took him by surprise at a meeting several years ago by offering to buy the Africa Mercy, and maybe the new ship — coming soon — should be named Ann Global Mercy rather than just Global Mercy.
Don Stephens said the much larger, 37,000-gt newbuilding, which is costing $178m, is under construction at Tianjin Xingang Shipyard in China and is scheduled to set sail for Africa in late 2019 or the first quarter of 2020.
“We look to the next 40 years because it will be even greater than the past,” he said.
During the evening’s live auction, £10,000 ($13,200) was bid for flights and a holiday for four in Bali, donated by Greek-controlled and London-based Helikon Shipping Enterprises, which controls a fleet of bulkers.
June 21th, 2018 17:00 GMT by Geoff Garfield