HMCS Merciful (SHR-01)

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The HMCS Merciful (SHR-01) (formerly Panamax sized oil tanker SS Western Pacific) was a hospital ship in service in the Canadian Forces Maritime Command from the mid-2000s onwards. In 1999, the Canadian government purchased the SS Western Pacific for conversion into a hospital ship, mirroring the American conversions of San Clemente-class oil tankers SS Worth and SS Rose City into USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) and USNS Comfort (T-AH-19). The conversion work was assigned to Allied Shipbuilding in Vancouver, British Columbia. It's work was completed in late 2007 and was commissioned in mid 2003 as the first dedicated hospital ship of the Canadian Forces.

History[edit | edit source]

HMCS Merciful was to be converted from the panamax oil tanker SS Western Pacific at Allied Shipbuilding, with the tanker placed in drydock in late 2001. However, it is soon found that the ship is filled with plenty of environmental contaminants, materials definitely not supposed to be present on a Hospital ship. As a result, the ship would undergo a comprehensive gutting of its interiors, virtually stripping most of the ship to bare metal. It would take many years to rebuild the ship, being quietly considered a near financial disaster by the Charest and Tobin governments, though mercifully the cost overruns were relatively low compared to certain American projects. There were several times when the Government considered canning the project, but ultimately it was allowed to be completed, with the hospital ship commissioned on February 18th, 2007.

During the rebuild, the military and Government decided to rebuild most of the ship's systems, with the older civilian grade equipment largely tossed. These would be replaced with Canadian Forces standard equipment such as military-grade radar, communications, and GPS systems.

To improve commonality with other Canadian Navy vessels, the Merciful had its old civilian diesel engines junked in favour of four General Motors Model 265NV four-stroke turbodiesel engines, four Detroit Diesel DD15 auxiliary engines, driving two shafts, producing roughly 65,000 shp. The engines were controlled by an upgraded version of the RIM MilSys integrated ship power and propulsion system used on HMCS Warrior. Additionally, there are two side thrusters to help the ship manoeuvre in harbour

The ship now had a large landing pad in the middle of the ship, reinforced to land helicopters up to the massive CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters of the US Navy.

For the most part, the ship belongs to the Canadian Forces Naval Reserve, and is mostly staffed by civilian and reservist personnel, though the senior positions, surgeons and dentists are commissioned officers of the Canadian Navy.

The lessons learned from the conversions would result in the construction of the two purpose-built Spirit-class hospital ships.

Specifications[edit | edit source]

  • Type: Hospital Ship
  • Service Period: 2007-Present
  • Characteristics:
    • Length: 900 feet (274.32 meters)
    • Beam: 102 feet (31.09 meters)
    • Draft: 33 feet (10.06 meters)
    • Displacement: 70,500 tons
  • Crew: 20 civilian and 55 military (Normal); 80 civilian and 900 military (Full Operational)
  • Propulsion: 4 General Motors Model 265NV four-stroke turbodiesel engines, 4 Detroit Diesel DD15 auxiliary engines, driving two shafts, producing roughly 65,000 shp, MilSys 110N integrated ship power and propulsion system.
  • Speed (Cruising): 18 knots (33.34 km/h)
  • Speed (Maximum): 24 knots (44.45 km/h)
  • Sensor Suite:
    • AN/SPS-48G 3D Air Search Radar
    • AN/SPS-49A(V)1 2D Air Search Radar
    • AN/SPS-73(V)12 Surface Search Radar
    • Atlas Elektronik 9600 ARPA navigational radar
    • Petrel Mine and Obstacle Avoidance Sonar system
    • Cossor AIMS Mark XII identification-friend-or-foe system
  • Aircraft Supported: CH-146 Griffon, CH-147 Chinook, CH-149 Cormorant, CH-151 Vulcan, CH-153 Sea/Super/King Stallion, CV-192 Osprey