Ship Sanitation Certification system

In accordance with Article 39 of the International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR), all vessels travelling in international waters are required to hold a current Ship Sanitation Control Certificate or a Ship Sanitation Control Exemption Certificate.

This global system aims to minimise the risk such vessels may pose to public or international health.

These certificates must be renewed at least every six months, so ship sanitation control inspections need to be undertaken at six-monthly intervals. Health officers are available to undertake a ship sanitation control inspection if the certificate is due to expire within the next month or before a vessel's arrival at the next port.

Ship sanitation certificates

The IHR provides for two types of ship sanitation certification.

Ship Sanitation Control Exemption Certificates

These are issued when a public health authority has inspected a ship and found no evidence of public health risks on board and the public health authority is satisfied that the ship is free from infection and contamination, including vectors and reservoirs.

Ship Sanitation Control Certificates

These are issued when evidence of a public health risk including sources of infection and/or contamination were detected on board. The control certificate records the evidence found and the control measures.

Arranging ship inspections

Vessels or their agents should request inspections for ship sanitation certificates when they provide their New Zealand Advance Notice of Arrival Form (New Zealand Customs Service website). The relevant public health unit will then determine if the visit times are appropriate for a ship sanitation survey to be conducted at the port of arrival.

Port health officials will confirm survey timings with the ship’s agent or grant an extension if timings are not feasible. Requests for inspections during ‘silent hours’ (at night or at weekends) should be discouraged unless there are compelling reasons.

Given the hazards present at working ports, surveys may be deferred until it is safe to do so (eg, after cargo has been loaded or unloaded).

Officials have the authority to grant up to a 30-day extension to any vessel as long as its ship sanitation certificate is valid when the extension is granted.

Conducting ship inspections

Health officials conducting surveys will look at general sanitation conditions on board the ship with regards to the public health risks these may pose. Inspections focus on disease vectors such as rodents and arthropods, and conditions associated with high-risk infections.

Inspections will likely include:

  • liaising with the Ship Master or Executive Officer
  • checking documentation, including:
    • ship sanitation certification
    • Maritime Declaration of Health
    • ship’s logs, medical logs and (for passenger vessels) gastrointestinal illness logs
    • management plans (for example, water bunkering, food safety, pest control, sewage, etc,)
    • ballast water certificates (Ministry for Primary Industries biosecurity staff validate these)
    • ship potable water records (chemical and bacteriological testing records and certification of source quality for last loaded bunkered water)
    • waste disposal records
    • food source and storage records
    • sanitation audit log
  • checking rodent guards are on all mooring lines and correctly orientated
  • physical inspections of key areas of the vessel, such as:
    • accommodation areas
    • galley
    • food storage
    • engine room
    • holds
    • medical facilities
    • water storage tanks/water pipes
    • waste-water holding tanks/sewer pipes
    • solid-waste storage and disposal
    • deck spaces for standing water.

On completing the physical inspection the Health Protection Officer will report to the Ship’s Master or Executive Officer to discuss the ship’s condition and any directives for remedial or control measures.

Hazards that may affect the crew, and occupational health and safety risks, do not form part of regular ship sanitation certificate inspections. They are the responsibility of the bodies regulating the maritime industry.

Ports approved for ship sanitation certification

New Zealand ports authorised as being able to issue ship sanitation certificates include:

  • Opua
  • Whangarei
  • Marsden Point
  • Ports of Auckland (including Onehunga)
  • Devonport Naval Base
  • Tauranga
  • Port Taranaki
  • Gisborne
  • Napier
  • Ports of Wellington
  • Nelson
  • Picton
  • Lyttelton Port of Christchurch
  • Timaru
  • Port Otago
  • Bluff.

Milford Sound is a port of first arrival, but only for passengers to disembark. The competent authority is Public Health South, Southern DHB.

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