The Association of Port Health Authorities is the only UK wide organisation representing the interests of Local Authorities and Port Health Authorities with responsibilities for health controls at sea and airports. Port health authorities are constituted with the primary objective of preventing the introduction into the country of dangerous epidemic, contagious and infectious diseases and ensuring the wholesomeness of imported food.
There are members of the Association throughout the UK who actively work to share expertise and best practice to deliver a consistent and effective port health service. The Association welcomes applications from any organisation or individual with an interest and knowledge of port health matters; for example, medical and veterinary practitioners.
The Association plays an important role in protecting public health through liaison with government departments and agencies, local authorities and internationally through the EU, the World Health Organisation and trade bodies. It contributes significantly to national and international policy development and keeps its members up to date with changes in legislation and guidance.
The Association is directed by an elected Executive Board and has a regional Port Liaison Network with groups based in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, and a number in England. They meet several times a year and if you wish to attend or contribute to the work of the Association, please get in touch.
The Association of Port Health Authorities vision is:
'To be the lead agency in promoting port health in the UK by assisting our members in the provision of consistent, high quality services for the protection of public, animal and environmental health.'
This vision will be achieved through the following aims and objectives:
- Promoting consistency amongst member authorities by developing policy, enforcement guidance, and identifying and disseminating good practice.
- Influencing central Government departments, Agencies and the European Commission regarding policy, legislation and enforcement.
- Supporting and promoting effective co-ordination, cooperation and collaborative arrangements between Local Authorities and Port Health Authorities.
- Developing effective partnership and collaborative working arrangements with key stakeholder organisations and relevant European and international agencies.
- Increasing capability of member authorities through the provision of training and information.
- Continuing to raise the profile of port health services with key stakeholders including local authorities, Government Departments and Agencies, European Commission, industry bodies and consumer organisations.
- Identifying and developing strategy and policy to tackle any emerging issues of port health significance.
Until the nineteenth century, ships arriving from plague infected areas had been subject to quarantine, but this proved ineffective in controlling the spread of cholera. On the premise that preventing epidemics would reduce the local expense of providing for paupers, the General Board of Health commenced in 1849 to issue provisional Orders assigning to the Poor Law Guardians power to deal with ships suspected of having cholera on board. This resulted in a conflict with the Commissioners of Customs, who had responsibility for the administration of quarantine but the General Board of Health had the support of the burgeoning shipping interests. As quarantine was counted from the departure of a vessel from a cholera infected port, this was to the disadvantage of steamships in which Britain had a lead.
In 1866 the Sanitary Act made ships subject to the jurisdiction of the Nuisance Authority, but as many ports extended over the area of more than one riparian authority the Public Health Act 1872 provided for the establishment of one Port Sanitary Authority for each Customs Port. Following the repeal of the 1825 Quarantine Act, the Local Government Board took over from Customs the health control of shipping.
The costs of providing isolation hospitals became a charge on local authorities, and the Association of Port Sanitary Authorities was constituted in 1899 with the primary objective of obtaining exchequer support for this service. Eventually a 50% grant for approved expenditure was conceded by the Local Government Board, and this was paid until the re-organisation of local government in 1974.
The Association became involved in the introduction of Imported Food Regulations in 1908, and actively supported better conditions aboard ships for merchant seamen.
With the development of commercial flying, the Association became involved in the health control of aircraft and for a number of years was known as the Association of Sea and Air Port Health Authorities. The Association now has over 50 members and strives to be the lead agency in promoting port health in the UK.