Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority serves business and the public by providing essential border checks on controlled imports:

  • Import controls for animal origin food and products
  • Ship sanitation control and certification
  • Food standards, food safety and water quality
  • Infectious disease control

Our team provide a professional, effective and efficient service with the quickest possible turnaround times for consignments of imported foods and products of animal origin.

We work with the Port of Felixstowe to maintain the efficiency of our service, and as far as possible we have integrated our own electronic system with the automated cargo handling system Destin8TRACESTRACES NT and IPAFFS




Founded in 1899, Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority is the largest in the UK.

Its growth is in part due to the size of Felixstowe port. Because the port can accommodate the largest vessels, most of the Far East trade uses docks here, and much of our import control work is focussed on food and feed from countries in that region.   

The staff of Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority includes the head of health, based at Woodbridge, and a dedicated team of service managers, port health officers, official veterinarians, technical assistants, and import control assistants based at our Felixstowe office. 

The Authority engages the services of public analysts, consultants in communicable disease control and boarding medical officers. We also use services of the Health Protection Agency.


To watch the full story of how we work, click on the Port Health Machine below:


+3 billion

The UK now spends over 3 billion pounds a year on ready meals

+4 million teu

The port handles over 4 million containers per year

+8 million

Over 8 million metric tonnes of plastic are now thrown into our oceans each year

international health

The Port Health Authority maintains controls at ports and aboard vessels carrying passengers and freight to protect the public and environmental health.

Infectious diseases

International health controls prevent the spread of infectious disease from vessels, seafarers and passengers into Britain. 

Vessels are required to notify Port Health of any cases or symptoms of infectious disease aboard, before they arrive in port.

If symptoms are suspected, you should submit a maritime declaration of health form to port.health@scpha.gov.uk, or fax to +44 1394 613331. Arrangements will then be made for a medical officer to visit the ship, assess any patients and initiate controls to stop disease being introduced into the UK.

Health and sanitation

There are also public health hazard control which concern conditions aboard vessels for crew and passengers.

You must have a valid Ship Sanitation Certificate, (renewed every six months). Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority carries out inspections and issues the required certification. There is a charge for the inspection

All ships that travel internationally must be inspected to ensure that they are properly managed, free from pests and disease and that food is stored and prepared hygienically. Water supplies to ships and aboard vessels are also monitored. 

In circumstances that pose an imminent risk to health, Port Health (with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency) will detain the ship until remedial measures have been taken.

Pollution control

East Suffolk Council’s pollution control team is responsible for pollution control measures within the port such as dust and dark smoke emission.


We are committed to ensure that consignments are cleared as quickly as possible through the Port of Felixstowe.   We work very closely with the port operator, importers, agents and other authorities to make the best use of technology which ensures every step is as efficient and effective as possible.   

Our dedicated IT team maintains an in-house system, called PHILIS, which helps us carry out our statutory duty. PHILIS talks to other systems such as UK IPAFFS EU TRACES (Trade Control and Expert system), MCPs Destin8 system and CNS Compass to exchange as much information as possible electronically. The software is also used by many other Port Health authorities around the UK.  We have also developed another system specifically for Animal Reception Centres and also provide a free online tool to enable the generation and submission of Plastic Declaration Documents (PDDs), Organics (COI) and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Improving information and transparency

We use mobile devices within the examination facilities. This enables us to record more of the key points during an inspection, and for the latest information to be available as soon as possible.  Although customers are already notified when a consignment is requested for examination, in the future it will also be possible to add updates throughout the process. We are looking at how we provide this information to relevant organisations.  We capture and save key information about consignments, checks (seals, IDs, Documents, Physical exams, sampling etc). 

Automatic License Verification System (ALVS)

Our systems at Port Health send updates to other authorities via a system called ALVS.  This helps the other authorities to speed up their release of consignments by electronically matching customs entries with the results of checks carried out by other inspection authorities.  ALVS can: 

  • Match decisions from Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates (PEACH) – horticultural/plant products;
  • Match inspection decisions that are recorded on TRACESTRACES NT, IPAFFS and finally; 
  • Transmit import control decisions to HMRC’s Customs Handling of Import & Export Freight (CHIEF) system. 

This speeds up customs clearances across a range of imports including:

  • Horticultural / plant products
  • Live animals
  • Products of Animal Origin (POAO)
  • Food Not of Animal Origin (NAO) Regulation 2019/1793 ; Regulation 91/2013)
  • Fishery products requiring Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) catch certificates

You can find out more about ALVS on GOV.UK by reading the ALVS User Guide

If you need to request a manual clearance, use the ALVS Manual Release Form

Looking for more information on IT Support?

We provide IT support to several Port Health Authorities throughout the UK.  Please visit our IT Support pages for more information.

Help for fish CVEDS

The selection of the scientific name for fish on TRACES NT was identified as a particular problem; we were seeing errors on most mixed species common veterinary entry documents (CVED) and getting a lot of phone calls from confused customers. We want to cut down on errors by making it easier for you to get it right first time without having to pick up the phone. Our new fish search tool helps with the completion of the cved on TRACES NT:

Get Involved

If you would like to make any suggestions or to discuss any of these projects further please contact a member of the ICT team, on 01394 613330, or email: philis.support@scpha.gov.uk