What measures has Mercy Ships taken on board to mitigate risks of infection during the Covid pandemic?

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mercy Ships has had to adapt its on-board health measures to ensure a safe environment for its crew and patients. The measures on board the ship include wearing a mask at all times (except in the cabin), respecting social distancing and surveillance testing throughout service .

From 1st January 2022, all adult volunteers on Mercy Ships vessels will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

For all travel-related information (quarantines, etc.) see details here.


What are the basic requirements for working on the Africa Mercy and the Global Mercy?

  • You should be at least 18 years of age
  • Be in good health,
  • Have good English skills (B1)
  • Be willing to volunteer, and pay for both accommodation and airfare as well as immunization.

How well do I need to know the English language?

It is essential to have sufficient knowledge of the English language to communicate with the other team members. In addition, the international maritime law to which we are subject requires it for safety reasons. The recommended level is B1.

What is the minimum commitment of an assignment?

The minimum duration depends on the respective work area. For some medical positions (surgeons, anaesthetists, OR nurses, dentists) the minimum commitment is two weeks. For all other areas, the minimum is 2, 3, 6, 12, 24 or 36 months. Generally speaking, however, we prefer assignments of longer duration and give them a higher priority.

What positions does Mercy Ships offer?

There are 3 main areas of activity on board: Medical, General and Technical.

We need Surgeons and Nurses, but also Cooks, Mechanics, Electricians, Engineers, Photographers, Seafarers, Dentists, Bakers, Plumbers, Hairdressers, Teachers, Machinists, Receptionists, Accountants, Hostesses, Cleaners, IS specialists, Journalists and many more! You will find a complete overview of all positions to be filled on board the Africa Mercy and Global Mercy, along with the minimum commitment for each position, by clicking on the link:  https://opportunities.mercyships.org/.


Why pay to serve on board?

We are aware that this can come as a surprise for some!

The reason is that crew fees help cover operational expenses on board, so we can maximize the impact of donations by spending 75% directly on programmatic expenses, such as the cost of a surgery for a patient in need.

By contributing to the costs associated with your stay on board, you are freeing up funds that will directly benefit the people who need it – our patients, and all those who benefit from our training.

Crew fees and other costs

Every crew member has to pay his monthly so-called “Crew Fees” as a contribution to the costs of lodging.

  • For a commitment of less than 1 year:  400 USD / month
  • For a commitment of 1 year and more: 200 USD / month (more details in the link above).

Other costs to consider: the airfare to and from the ship as well as the cost for getting your immunizations.

Currently, it is also necessary to add the expenses related to the Covid test which is to be done at most 72 hours before travelling to the vessel.

In addition, you should set aside some pocket money for your personal needs, so that you can go out for a meal in a restaurant or accompany friends to the beach. There is a Starbucks Café on board and a mini kiosk for drinks, chocolate, etc. We therefore recommend that you plan on spending USD 100 per month. However, this is only a recommendation and it can be less.

The biggest “challenge” is obviously your expenses in Switzerland, because even if you go abroad, you still have to be able to cover the costs in Switzerland during your absence. In a guide specially designed for our Swiss volunteers, we give you some advice on how to manage this administrative part.

Are students also accepted?

Yes, because many jobs do not require any specific training, such as galley and dining room staff, housekeeping, warehouse management, reception staff, etc. These positions are often filled by students who wish to take a break during their studies.

Can retirees or elderly people apply?

Due to the Covid-19 situation, it has been decided that any person above the age of 70 would not be accdepted on board for security reasons (temporary measure). However, in theory, anyone in good health can apply. We do feel that in some areas the Africa Mercy and Global Mercy are not well adapted for the elderly, due to the many stairs and the type of accommodation (little personal space, shared cabins). The climate in Africa, hot and humid, can be another challenge, and in addition, access to medical care is limited. Officially there is no age limit for an application.

I'm a medical student. Can I do my internship on the ship?

No, because we do not have the infrastructure or the facilities to offer internships. In addition, the governments of the countries where we carry out our field services require our medical staff to have recognised diplomas from their countries of origin. Another reason is that we put the focus on training local caregivers in order to leave a lasting impact.

I am freshly graduated / have just finished my medical studies. May I already apply for a position?

For the majority of medical professions (nurses, surgeons, anaesthetists, laboratory technicians, etc.), professional experience of at least two years after obtaining the diploma is essential. For dental staff, at least one year of professional experience is required.

Can I do my community service on board the Africa Mercy or Global Mercy?

Unfortunately, no.

I'm married. Can I apply together with my spouse?

Yes, the ships are equipped with several cabins that are specially for married couples. Unfortunately, the number is limited and often not enough to accommodate all the couples applying. It could therefore happen that you have to wait for a longer time.

I'm married. Can I get involved without my spouse?

Yes, although we limit these commitment periods to a maximum of three months.

I am interested in coming with my whole family. Is that possible?

It is the same situation as for married couples, there is a limited number of family cabins. They can accommodate a family with up to four children and are meant for volunteers who have committed themselves for a period of two years or more. For children of school age there is an academy on board the ship.

Do I have to be a Christian/believer to work with Mercy Ships?

Mercy Ships is a Christian organisation and the majority of our staff are Christian believers. All volunteers, regardless of their background, are welcome on board if they are committed to the mission of Mercy Ships, if they support the core values of Mercy Ships and if they have the necessary skills. For long term commitments, belonging to the Christian faith can help with feeling comfortable in the community on board.

Will I need a visa?

No, our host countries exempt us from the visa requirement. If you are involved, Mercy Ships will provide you with documents confirming that you can enter without a visa.

Will I have contact with the local population and/or patients?

You will certainly have many opportunities to do so!

Whether it is through your local work colleagues (Day crew) or during visits to orphanages and prisons (activities that are regularly organized and all you have to do is sign up), during your free time you will have the opportunity to discover the host country.

All those staff members who are not working in the medical field will also have the opportunity to visit patients in the infirmary and thus establish contact with them.

What medical procedures do you perform?

The main types of surgery offered are: general, gynecological, maxillofacial, ophthalmic, reconstructive plastic, orthopedic, and dental / oral care.

For how long will the ships remain in port?

For a typical field service, the ships stay in the same port for about 10 months, usually. During the remaining 2 months the ships are taken to a shipyard for maintenance, often in the Canary Islands.

I am currently unemployed. Can I still apply?

Unfortunately, it is not possible for any Swiss jobseeker receiving financial compensation to take up a volunteer assignment abroad.

The main reason is that an unemployed person has the obligation to accept paid work within 24 hours.

In order to be able to do volunteer work abroad, one must therefore forego benefits. For more details, we recommend that you ask your advisor at the unemployment or placement office.

Is it permitted to smoke or drink alcohol on board?

The Africa Mercy and Global Mercy are a smoke and alcohol free environment. However, outside the ship, there are no special restrictions, as long as it is done discreetly.

The main reason for this is a matter of safety, but one must also consider the fact that for some cultures we visit, the simple act of smoking or drinking alcohol can be misperceived or misinterpreted.

How and when do I apply?

Go to the website http://opportunities.mercyships.org/. Select the desired position and click “Apply”. The entire application needs to be done in English! The HR service for the ship is managed by our “Operations Center” in the USA. We recommend sending your application at least 6 months before your desired commitment. You can also send the form one year in advance, which can increase your chances of being accepted. After receiving your application, the US Team will contact you.

Explore our “How to apply” page for more detailed information on the application process.

The Swiss office is at your disposal at all times for information or support.