StenaRoRo is making big strides in raising its social performance in ESG through a decade-long partnership with hospital charity Mercy Ships as the human factor becomes an increasing priority for sustainable business in shipping.

Per Westling at Mercy Ships, Oslo conference and exhibition

Managing director Per Westling said the partnership has delivered concrete ESG benefits for the Swedish shipowner by supporting the key UN Sustainability Goals of good health & wellbeing and quality education that are delivered by the charity, as well as enhancing the motivation and engagement of its workforce through contributing manpower and expertise.

Being able to combine what we do best as a shipping company with promoting humanitarian good work where it is needed most has been a perfect match for us

… Per Westling told the panel discussion hosted by Mercy Ships at the Oslo conference and exhibition.

Focusing on the human factor

Per Westling added that it has been a fantastic journey since StenaRoRo started its engagement with the charity in 2011 that has entailed financial support and providing seafarer services, as well as project management of the newbuild hospital ship Global Mercy, which began operation last year in addition to existing vessel Africa Mercy.

Mercy Ships has been important for our business case in terms of corporate social responsibility and we are now using data provided by the charity as a key social metric in our ESG (environmental, social and governance) reporting

… the managing director stated

Furthermore, Westling believes that it is only a matter of time before humanitarian issues such as health, labour standards and human rights become an equally important sustainability factor as GHG emissions in commercial decision-making by charterers, cargo owners, banks, investors and other stakeholders – and proactive players can gain a competitive advantage.

Mutual workforce benefits

Mercy Ships’ Captain Djurre Jan Schutte highlighted the fact the symbiotic partnership has yielded mutual gains by giving StenaRoRo personnel valuable experience on the hospital ships to bolster the motivation of its workforce, while also providing seagoing placements for the charity’s seafarers on StenaRoRo vessels when its ships are docked for long-term stays at African ports or in drydock.

It is also promoting diversity and an inclusive culture given Mercy Ships supports female recruitment up to senior officer level and partners with a Finnish nautical school to provide experience for cadets of both genders, while its army of volunteers spans 60 nationalities, he explained.

With the shipping industry facing a looming shortage of seafarers, such a partnership can also assist in training new recruits, with some local African day workers employed on the hospital ships given the opportunity to work on StenaRoRo vessels to gain their seafarer qualification. “It’s a win-win situation,” Schutte said.

‘Meaningful social impact’

Mercy Ships also has had a long-standing partnership with Lloyd’s Register (LR) since its inception over 40 years ago, with LR providing maritime safety training for the charity’s volunteers as well as technical consultancy services through its sponsorship.

This is a true social purpose partnership that creates real meaningful social impact, changing the lives of millions and bringing value to all stakeholders.

… Chief Marketing Officer Philippa Charlton told the Nor-Shipping panel

Mercy Ships is now widening its mission to increase the availability of safe, timely and free surgery, with the aim of providing 6000 surgeries onboard its ships every year, as well as train hundreds of local medical professionals to bolster healthcare capacity.

New recruitment drive

This coincides with a major upgrade to the Africa Mercy to boost its medical facilities that will be followed by a 10-month stint in Madagascar next year, while the Global Mercy – currently in Dakar, Senegal – will head for a similar stay in Sierra Leone after maintenance in Tenerife later this year.

The expansion of activity will require the charity to boost recruitment of volunteers from 1100 to 2800 annually, with a primary need for technical crew from engineers and mechanics to electricians, plumbers and deck hands, according to recruitment officer Harald Bowie Buverud.

That is why partnership with the industry is so important. Together we can make an even greater difference and change our world for the better.

… said recruitment officer, Harald Bowie Buverud

Mercy Ships, which is Nor-Shipping’s Charity of Choice, estimates it has impacted the lives of more than 2 billion people in some of Africa’s poorest countries through:

• Performing over 100,000 free surgical procedures
• Performing 500,000 dental procedures
• Providing vital medical training for around 50,000 local health professionals
• Helping to develop healthcare infrastructure