This global system aims to minimise the risk such ships may pose to public or international health. The system is laid out in Article 39 of the International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR).


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 certificates.

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.

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.

The inspection and certification process

Ships or their agents should request inspections for ship sanitation certificates when they provide their New Zealand Advance Notice of Arrival Form. Public health officers will then determine if the visit times are appropriate for a ship sanitation inspection to be conducted at the port of arrival.

Diagram showing the phases of a ship sanitation survey (DOC, 167 KB)

Arranging ship inspections

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 (e.g. 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 inspections 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 ships) 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 a Senior Officer to discuss the ship’s condition and any remediation requirements 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.

Integrated pest management plans

Integrated pest management (IPM) is an environmentally friendly, common sense approach to controlling pests. It is not a single pest control method, but rather involves integrating multiple control methods based on site information obtained through inspection, monitoring and reports. IPM programmes take advantage of all appropriate pest management strategies, including the judicious use of pesticides. Vessels making international voyages are expected to have a documented IPM Plan.  

An IPM Plan usually includes:

  • Identifying the pests to be controlled 
  • Identifying key preventative practices (eg, removing standing water where mosquitoes can lay eggs, or ensuring appropriate storage of garbage that can attract pests)  
  • Monitoring (eg, inspecting areas that could harbour pests or getting crew to report sightings of pests)
  • Using mechanical controls (eg, traps or screens on doors and windows, etc)
  • Using appropriate pesticides (eg, insect sprays, rat poison, etc)

An IPM on a vessel could work through these components in each different area of the vessel (eg, galley, crew accommodation, holds etc) and assign responsibility and timing for each pest management controls to be applied.

Ports approved for ship sanitation certification

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

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

Read a list of the local public health service contacts when a master or shipping agent requests an SSC.