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A former naval auxiliary vessel is being converted in the Scottish port of Greenock into a floating medical centre that will be used to deliver healthcare in remote and isolated areas around the world.

The 177gt SD Melton, which previously belonged to the services company Serco, is to join a fleet of vessels operated by the Edinburgh-based international development charity Vine Trust, and is expected to deliver more than 2m medical consultations in its new role.

Built in 1981 at Richard Dunston’s yard in Hessle, near Hull, SD Melton spent the majority of its working life in the Kyle of Lochalsh. Supporting trials at the British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre, it undertook a range of passenger-carrying and safety services.

The vessel was acquired by the Vine Trust at markedly less than the brokers' assessments of its market value, and is being fitted out with medical consultation rooms, a full dental clinic, an operating room, a pharmacy, and an onboard laboratory. It will also accommodate a medical team, including short-term volunteers from the charity.

The Vine Trust – which delivers medical, health and care support services in Peru and Tanzania – anticipates that SD Melton's refit work will be completed and the vessel ready for deployment into overseas work over the course of the next 12 to 18 months.

The charity has three other ships: Amazon Hope 2 and Forth Hope, which are working in the Loreto region of Peru, and Jubilee Hope, which operates on Lake Victoria in Tanzania. Vine Trust says that using medical ships is an innovative approach to strengthening health systems in isolated communities.

'Taking into account that many remote communities cannot travel to their nearest hospital, the ship will provide a safe and hygienic facility which can be accessed easily by patients throughout the year,' it notes.

Having been involved with the Vine Trust since 2001, Serco's Maritime Services business in Scotland has provided secure berthing facilities and engineering support at its Great Harbour base in Greenock, plus volunteer crew for the long delivery voyages to Mombasa, Kenya and Iquitos, Peru.

Vine Trust chief executive Rev Willie McPherson said: 'We are grateful for the vital support of Serco and for the opportunity that the acquisition of this vessel gives us going forward to change lives. Over the coming months, plans are being prepared and we look forward to beginning the conversion of the vessel during the course of 2019.'

Serco maritime services director Phil Ireland added: 'We are delighted to transfer ownership of the former SD Melton to the Vine Trust in continuation of our long commitment to supporting a great charity whose vessels deliver invaluable medical care to remote communities. Some of our team have supported the Vine Trust throughout since 2001 and we are now actively encouraging the next generation, from apprentices to qualified seafarers and shore side staff, to volunteer.'


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