World's largest hospital ship comes to town

The USNS Mercy first came to this region to render aid when the 2004 tsunami struck, and has since been making annual trips to work with countries to better prepare for disaster response situations.
The USNS Mercy first came to this region to render aid when the 2004 tsunami struck, and has since been making annual trips to work with countries to better prepare for disaster response situations.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

US Navy ship here to load up on supplies before regional humanitarian mission

The world's largest hospital ship, the USNS Mercy, docked in Singapore on Friday.

The US Navy hospital ship has 1,000 beds for patients, is as tall as a 10-storey building and as long as three football fields. It is moored at Changi Naval Base for a supply stop as it goes on a humanitarian mission in the region.

The 70,000-ton ship first came to this region to render aid when a tsunami devastated parts of South and South-east Asia in December 2004.

Since then, the ship, whose home port is San Diego, has been making annual trips to the region to work with countries to better prepare for potential humanitarian aid and disaster response situations.

It left Indonesia last Tuesday and made a pit stop in Singapore to load up on food, medical supplies and other logistical equipment before heading for Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam under the 13th Pacific Partnership mission.

Captain David Bretz, the mission commander, said: "Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral disaster response preparedness exercise in the Indo-Pacific region designed to help our partner and host nations to prepare for natural disasters here in the Pacific along the Ring of Fire."

 

  • 12

    Number of operating theatres on board the USNS Mercy

  • 1,000

    Number of beds for patients

  • 3

    Number of football fields that would make up the length of the 70,000-ton ship.

The Pacific Ring of Fire is a region prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Since the 2004 tsunami, the US Navy's floating hospitals have played a major role in helping victims of natural disasters, such as the Haiti earthquake and Hurricane Katrina.

The Sunday Times was given a tour of the ship, which was converted from an oil tanker in the mid-1980s and has two helicopters on its flight deck.

The ship has 12 operating theatres, a medical lab, a blood bank, a pharmacy and plants for producing clean drinking water and oxygen. It is able to produce 1.14 million litres of water a day from sea water.

Medical personnel can provide casualty, radiological, optometry and dental services.

The floating hospital has a 900-strong crew comprising medical personnel, support staff and civilian employees.

It will set off for Malaysia this evening.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 15, 2018, with the headline 'World's largest hospital ship comes to town'. Print Edition | Subscribe