Imports and exports by sea account for 95% of UK trade. The UK imports just under 50% of its overall food requirements. Approximately two-thirds of this is imported from other EU member states.
It is important that public health safeguards are established and maintained for the commercial use of shipping. Concern for establishing and maintaining public health standards, going back at least to the Great Plague of England in 1665 to 1666, led to the formal establishment of the Port Health function.
The Secretary of State for Health administers Port Health for England and this is devolved to the administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The statutory authority for the function is given by the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.
Port Health - main functions
- Inspection of shipping, including passenger vessels, to ensure public health standards are met
- Control of infectious disease on board incoming vessels by undertaking health check visits to ships
- Investigation of reported sickness amongst ship's company or passengers
- Inspection of foodstuffs and products of animal origin entering the EU at Avonmouth and Royal Portbury Docks
- Operation of an EU Border Inspection Post
- Programmed inspection of food businesses within the curtilage of Avonmouth Docks
- Provision of information and advice concerning EU and UK legislation and controls
- Acting as a focus for customers and other agencies, such as Department of Environment, Foods and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), Food Standards Agency (FSA), and Health Protection Agency (HPA).
- Monitoring water quality and pest control around the docks.
Infectious Disease Control - ships
We are directly responsible for investigating any case of infectious disease and liaise closely with the Health Protection Agency. A requirement exists that all cases of infectious disease are notified to us prior to a ship arriving at port. Investigations based on that information are undertaken, the goal is to stop infectious diseases reaching the community.
Routinely, we proactively inspect all types of commercial shipping to ensure appropriate sanitary conditions and hygiene standards are maintained. We undertake frequent inspections; this is done in close co-operation with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to secure international agreements and standards.
Imported Food Inspections / EU Border Control
Avonmouth and Royal Portbury is a designated EU Border Inspection Post. This means that the Port Health Authority is approved to inspect and release products of animal origin (meat and fish) from outside the E.U. for free circulation within the community.
We carry out a checking regime to ensure that the products of animal origin comply with both European and UK law. Every consignment is subject to documentary, identity and physical checks. All other food imports of non animal origin e.g. cocoa fruit, and nuts are inspected on a risk assessment basis, samples procured being subjected to physical and microbiological checks.
For more information
About Port Health activities please contact us or you may wish to visit the gov.uk website
The Port Health Office
Tel: 0117 938 1171
Fax: 0117 938 1055
Public Protection (City Hall)
P.O Box 3176
Tel: 0117 922 2500
Fax: 0117 922 4711