International Health

International health controls are in place to prevent the spread of infectious disease from vessels, seafarers and passengers into Britain.

Over 150 vessels are boarded annually by officials of the Cornwall Port Health Authority to understand the health status on board.  Particular attention is given to ships arriving from infected areas where diseases such as yellow fever, cholera and plague are prevalent.  

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Countries that become infected are required under International Regulations to notify the World Health Organisation (WHO) within 24 hours of them becoming aware of the first case of such disease. Port Health Authorities receive a weekly update on the disease situation within infected countries. This regime of surveillance and control forms the first barrier to the international spread of infectious disease through shipping.

The principal legislation that involves ships and aircraft arriving from outside the UK are the Public Health (Ships) Regulations 1979 (as amended) and the Public Health (Aircraft) Regulations 1979. Both these sets of Regulations reflect the provisions of International Health Regulations 2005.

These regulations require that port health is notified of any cases or symptoms of infectious disease aboard an aircraft or vessel before it arrives in port. This can be done by the submission of a Declaration of Health form to port.health@cornwall.gov.uk or fax to 0044 1872 323091. This enables arrangements to be made for a medical officer to visit the ship, assess the patient and initiate controls to stop disease being introduced into the UK.

For Cruise liners the situation is slightly different, the majority of infectious disease control work relates to suspected and confirmed cases of food poisoning resulting from the consumption of food contaminated with bacteria such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli and Staphylococcus, or food contaminated by banned food additives and toxic chemicals.

There are also controls over conditions aboard vessels aimed at preventing public health hazards for crew and passengers.

The International Health Regulations 2005 require that ships must have a valid Ship Sanitation Control Exemption Certificate. This is renewed every six months.  Inspections must be carried out at a designated port.   The ports of Falmouth, Penryn, Truro, Fowey and Penzance are designated to carry out such inspections and issue the required certification.  There is a charge for the inspection, please see the Public Protection Fees and Charges.   

Inspections of all ships that travel internationally are required to ensure that vessels are properly managed, are free from pests and disease and that food is stored and prepared hygienically. Water supplies to ships and aboard vessels are also monitored.  In circumstances that pose an imminent risk to health, port health will work with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to detain the ship until remedial measures have been taken.