The global charity organisation Mercy Ships has been our partner since 2017. In addition to fundraising and creating awareness, we aim to contribute with the unique technical and naval competence held by our employees. This year, two able seamen and two engineers joined the other volunteers at the yard in Grand Canaria, preparing the sailing hospital Africa Mercy for her next mission to Senegal.

Mercy Ships is run by volunteers and every year around 1,300 people work and contribute onboard the sailing hospital Africa Mercy. As well as medical expertise such as nurses, doctors and dentists there is also a need for other volunteers to keep the hospital ship running including chefs, engineers and teachers.  And, in order to provide help where it is needed the most, Mercy Ships is dependent on volunteers with a completely different skillset – seamen.

“In Mercy Ships we have found a partner that like us see the benefits of having the ocean and ships as your workplace. I’m very proud of our employees who choose to contribute with their nautical competence to the important work that Mercy Ships do”, says Niclas Mårtensson, CEO at Stena Line.

The volunteer program is part of Stena Line’s sustainability strategy

The program was launched in 2017 and employees from all eight of the shipping company’s regions are encouraged to apply. In accordance with Mercy Ships’ values, all volunteers work for free. 

However, Stena Line guarantees their leave of absence and covers overhead expenses as well as their vaccinations. If you want to read more about our partnership or volunteering for Mercy Ships, please visit 

Martina Thowsen, Able Seaman. Alexander Gustafsson, Able Seaman. Cees de Jong and Misha Vellinga, engineers.

“It felt good contributing to a great cause”

Martina Thowsen normally works as an Able Seaman on the Stena Scandinavica, operating the Gothenburg-Kiel route. During dry dock on board Africa Mercy in Las Palmas she worked as a night watchman making fire safety patrols and assisted in the general maintenance, grinding rust and painting the vessel. 

“I had no idea how it would feel to come on board the Africa Mercy, but I felt very much at home and met so many fantastic people from all over the world. And even though I wasn’t part of the medical team, it felt good contributing to a great cause,” says Martina. She adds: “I really enjoy my time here, and I can see myself returning in the future.”

“Seamanship is an international language that all sailors speak”

The role of Able Seaman is one of 200 different positions needed to run the Africa Mercy and during dry dock the deck crew plays a very important part to get the ship ready for its journey. A lot of maintenance needs to be done in a short period of time meanwhile new supplies and equipment need to be brought onboard. 

“It was a great atmosphere between colleagues on board, and we were constantly learning from each other when discussing how we should handle a new situation. It was fun to see that seamanship is an international language that all sailors speak”, says Alexander Gustafsson who usually works as an Able Seaman on the Stena Nautica, operating the Varberg-Grenaa route.

“Beautiful work is being done”

While Martina and Alexander got leave of absent to volunteer for three months, Cees and Misha from the North Sea decided to support the team during their summer vacation. With their technical background they were able to assist in numerous projects. 

“Misha and I were assigned to a team that completes all kinds of projects in the accommodation of the ship. You should think of replacing the ball bearings of all fans and electric motors of the ventilation system. Also, bigger projects were current, such as maintenance work on the propeller shafts, replacing the entire IT system by a new installation. Even the diesel generators, which we know from our fleet, were completely overhauled” says Cees de Jong, Chief Engineer from the Stena Transit.

Misha and Cees were happy to volunteer and every day they felt that the people on board were very grateful that Stena Line has entered into a partnership with Mercy Ships. The mix of cultures and bond that arose made their experience unforgettable. 

“There are about 200 crew members with approximately 40 different nationalities from all over the world which come and go for long or short periods. It’s a fun place, there is a special atmosphere on board with all the volunteers and the great work that is being done” says Misha Vellinga,
Electrician from the Stena Transit. 


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