Published: Monday, 22 May 2017

Naval architect Gerard Dykstra, famous for his yachts and sailing ships, has teamed up with award-winning superyacht builder Vitters to create a humanitarian “mothership” for the US and Fiji-based charity Sea Mercy.

Naval Architect Partners With Vitters To Create Charity Ship For Sea Mercy 1

(Photos: Sea Mercy)

The Sea Bridge One project has taken the designer and builders “off-piste” – away from their usual luxury brief and into a different scope of requirements.

Dyskstra said: “Sea Mercy needed a vessel for their remote island programme; a transport support barge, a floating hospital, an educational research & training vessel, a disaster response & recovery vessel, an economic development delivery platform, or a combination of some or all the above. 

Vitters Shipyard, a company who strives to “push the envelope” and “make the impossible possible”, has relished the challenge.

Louis Hamming from Vitters Shipyard said: “Our brief is normally high-end luxury combined with the performance but this project required a different mindset. To be able to contribute to such a worthy programme as Sea Mercy is a real honour for us, and we hope our experience and technical expertise will mean that Sea Bridge One exceeds the operational expectations and demands put on the vessel. 

Naval Architect Partners With Vitters To Create Charity Ship For Sea Mercy

The idea for the new ship formed in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston, a category 5 storm that devastated Fiji in 2016.  Sea Mercy, operating with private cruising vessels, provided emergency relief to thousands of people in many communities in the immediate aftermath and up to five months after. 

Due solely to the volunteer efforts of cruising vessels in the area, Sea Mercy was able to restore essential services including clean drinking water and solar power, and bring medical supplies and building materials to these remote and often ignored areas.

Sea Mercy’s cruising sailors can access areas where local Governments have neither resources nor vessels to access.  Importantly, many of these communities live within atolls with narrow or shallow entries, and without major harbours or jetties for land access.

Limitations arose with sailors’ lack of capacity to ship large amounts of heavy supplies across seas, often upwind and loaded to the max.  Multiple journeys were taxing vessels and crews alike. The idea for a sustainable, shallow, strong mothership was born. Sea Mercy volunteer and superyacht veteran Patrick Whetter approached Dykstra and Hamming and the benevolent agreement was struck.

Naval Architect Partners With Vitters To Create Charity Ship For Sea Mercy

Richard Hackett, Sea Mercy President, celebrated the collaboration and looks forward to the expansion of Sea Mercy’s capacity.

“Although our volunteer yacht owners have incredible hearts, there is only so much you can ask of them and their vessels. They are and always will be the heart and soul of Sea Mercy. Our goal with Sea Bridge One is not to replace them, but to further empower and encourage their participation within all our programmes.” 

As Cyclone Donna, now category 5, moves over Vanuatu and New Caledonia in this late end to the south pacific cyclone season, there will no doubt be more work for his organisation 

Plans are now drawn and shipyards soon to be shortlisted.  Sea Mercy is now in the final fund raising stage to finance the construction of the vessel.