Ports & harbours

Ports & harbours

Here you will find information on what port health services do and what they’re responsible for.

Port health services

Port health authorities (PHAs) enforce a wide range of legislation at ports and aboard vessels carrying passengers and freight, preventing the spread of infectious disease.

PHAs must be notified of any cases or symptoms of infectious disease aboard a vessel before it arrives in port.

This allows arrangements to be made for a medical officer to visit the ship, assess the patient and initiate controls to stop diseases spreading.

What do port health services do?
The international health regulations provide for six-monthly inspections of all ships engaged in international trade, to ensure vessels are free of pests and food is prepared and stored hygienically.
Water supplies are also monitored. In circumstances that pose an imminent risk to health, PHAs work with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to detain the ship until the issues have been corrected.
Under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 UK, PHAs are defined as Category 1 Responders. They are therefore on the frontline of emergency planning, alongside other organisations such as the police, local authorities, fire and rescue services, etc.
A major function at larger ports is the control of products of animal origin and foodstuffs imported from countries outside the EU. These are all liable to inspection by PHAs. Products of animal origin undergo at least a documentary check on the health certificates accompanying each consignment.  
More detailed checks are carried out at dedicated inspection facilities approved by the European Commission.
What is the port health authority responsible for?
The port health provision has responsibility for: 
  • imported food control (non-animal origin products) at the Port of Blyth and Port of Berwick
  • inspections of vessels, documentation and medical lockers for infectious disease
  • inspection of vessels to enforce UK and international standards for food hygiene
  • enforcing catering waste and animal by-product directives
  • working in partnership with related agencies
  • sampling quayside and tanked water supplies
  • enforcing current smoking legislation quayside and in commercial vehicles and premises
Northumberland’s port health team has a close working relationship with the Port of Blyth and Port of Berwick, ensuring checks of ports and vessels are undertaken at convenient times.

Port health ship sanitation certification

Here you can find out details of the ship sanitation inspection and certification process from Northumberland port health service.

The Public Health (Ships) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2007 came into force on 15 June 2007. These regulations implement the requirement of the International Health Regulations 2005. 

What can I expect from a ship sanitation inspection?
Northumberland port health service issues ship sanitation control and exemption certificates. The certificate involves a detailed inspection, which includes checking for signs of illness and controls in place to minimise the risk of illnesses spreading.
If there is no evidence of a risk to public health, a ship sanitation exemption certificate will be issued. It is valid for six months with the option of a one month extension if requested in writing.
Should evidence of infection or contamination be found, a ship sanitation control certificate will be issued outlining the problem and treatment undertaken.

Infection or contamination includes signs of inadequate sanitary measures or rodents or other species that could carry human disease and microbiological, chemical or other risks to human health.
When on board the vessel, we ask to see the following:
  • the last set of microbiological water results
  • medical log
  • garbage log
  • master handover log
  • medicine and narcotics list
  • food safety management system
  • ballast log
We can take and submit drinking water/ice/swimming pool samples for bacteriological examination on request. There will generally be a charge for this service and a laboratory report will be provided with a certificate.
Ship sanitation inspection charges
As of 1 April 2016:
Gross tonnage            Charge
Ships up to 1,000 GT          £80
Ships from 1,000 to 3,000 GT £115
Ships from 3,000 to 10,000 GT          £175
Ships from 10,000 to 20,000 GT          £230
Ships from 20,000 to 30,000 GT          £295
Ships over 30,000 GT          £350
Extension of current valid sanitation certificate £50
  • vessels with the capacity to carry between 50 and 1,000 persons - £350
  • vessels with the capacity to carry more than 1000 persons - £600 
Extra charges may be added for exceptional costs, such as launch hire (at the discretion of the port operator or harbour master), out-of-hours duties and extended or re-inspections of ships due to 'control measures'.
Should your microbiological water test report be older than six months, we suggest you should have a new water test at a charge of £105 (+VAT).
As part of the inspection, we will undertake a free chlorine test to establish if the level is between 0.2ppm to 0.5ppm of chlorine.
Specific Legionella tests can also be conducted. One test costs £48.33 per sample and officer time (+VAT).
The full list of designated ports can be viewed by clicking on the World Health Organisation website. This list is updated regularly.
Extending exemption certificates
We do realise sometimes it’s not practical or safe to conduct an inspection. Should the sanitation certificate be close to the six months expiry date, officers can extend the certificate by a period of one month, once a request has been received in writing. An officer must visit the vessel to extend the current certificate.
A charge for this will be levied, so please see above.
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