Port Health Authorities enforce a wide range of international, European and domestic legislation at ports and aboard vessels carrying passengers and freight. The controls are in place to protect the public, animal and environmental health of the UK and Europe. The primary reason why PHA's were constituted in the late 19th century was to prevent the spread of infectious disease from seafarers and passengers into Britain. This is still an important function today, and PHA's must be notified of any cases of, or symptoms of, infectious disease aboard a vessel prior to it arriving in port. This enables arrangements to be made for a boarding medical officer to visit the ship, and assess the patient, and initiate controls to stop disease being introduced into the UK.
The conditions aboard vessels could lead to public health hazards for crew and passengers. The International Health Regulations provide for six monthly inspections of all ships engaged in international trade to ensure that vessels are free of pests and food is prepared and stored hygienically. Water supplies to ships and aboard vessels 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 remedial measures has been taken.
A major function at the larger ports is the control of products of animal origin and foodstuffs imported from countries outside the EU. All such commodities are liable to inspection by PHA's, and products of animal origin undergo at least a documentary check on the health certificates that have to accompany each consignment. More detailed checks are carried out at dedicated inspection facilities that have to be approved by the European Commission.
PHAs are responsible for some pollution control measures within ports such as dust and dark smoke emission and ensuring certain processes, such as cement handling do not cause pollution. PHAs are also responsible for enforcing the new smoke free legislation in ports.
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