As well the inspection of third country imports, we are responsible with DAERA for the carrying out of documentary, identity and physical checks on the movement of food from the UK into Northern Ireland, to make sure it meets EU safeguards. This has led to a major expansion of our capabilities in Belfast, including premises and staff.
To ensure the efficient flow of goods, the correct steps must be followed when importing foods into Northern Ireland. Follow the guidance given in the compliance protocol (link opens in a new window).
Our imported food office operates a 24-hour a day service. We can carry out ship sanitation inspections from 9am to 5pm from Monday to Friday, and outside of these hours in exceptional circumstances. Opening times may vary on Bank and Public Holidays.
Christmas opening hours
Our imported food control service at Port Health will close at 8pm on Sunday 24 December (Christmas Eve), reopening on Tuesday 26 December (Boxing Day) at 12 noon. The service will also be closed from 8pm on Sunday 31 December (New Year's Eve), reopening again at 12 noon on Monday 1 January 2024 (New Year's Day).
Port of Belfast
Belfast is home to one of the busiest ports in the UK and Ireland and is the largest in Northern Ireland.
Port of Belfast handles a wide range of products, including dry goods, commercial items, petroleum and oil.
- Find out more on the Belfast Harbour website (link opens in new window)
Although we don't operate the Port of Belfast, we're responsible for making sure the port meets environmental health standards.
Our duties include:
- Overseeing the import of food into Belfast
- Including checks on High Risk Food not of Animal Origin.
- Fish and Fishery products for human consumption
- Plastic kitchenware originating in China and Hong Kong
- Verifying imports of fish and fishery under the Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing Regulations (IUU)
- Endorsing organic imports.
- Carrying out inspections on board ships and other vessels to check they comply with food safety and hygiene standards
- Overseeing the International Health Regulations
- Issuing ship sanitation and exemption certificates
- monitoring the port of Belfast and George Best Belfast City Airport for infectious disease
- Inspecting the port for signs of pests
- Checking the quality of water provided to and stored on ships and aircraft
Ship sanitation certificates
Under the International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005, all ships and other vessels engaged in an international voyage between countries must hold a valid ship sanitation certificate.
We issue these certificates as one of our responsibilities under the Public Health (Ships) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008.
Ship sanitation inspection charges (from 1 April 2023)
There is a charge for carrying out an inspection and issuing a ship sanitation certificate.
These charges are issued nationally by the Association of Port Health Authorities (APHA).
The charges are listed in this table.
|Size of ship
|Cost of inspection and certificate from 1 April 2023
|Ships with up to 1,000 gross tonnage
|Ships from 1,001 to 3,000 gross tonnage
|Ships from 3,001 to 10,000 gross tonnage
|Ships from 10,001 to 20,000 gross tonnage
|Ships from 20,001 to 30,000 gross tonnage
|Ships with more than 30,000 gross tonnage
There are some exceptions to these charges:
- vessels with a capacity of between 50 and 1,000 persons: £480
- vessels with a capacity of more than 1,000 persons: £820
Extra charges, based on actual costs, may be added for exceptional costs such as launch hire, out-of-hours duty, travel and extended or re-inspections of ships due to control measures.
Extensions to a ship sanitation certificate will be charged at £95.
If you need a Ship Sanitation Inspection, contact your agent or our Port Health Team directly on 028 9035 1199.
Imports of High Risk Food not of Animal Origin, Plastic Kitchenware ex China and Hong Kong and Products of Organic Origin, POAO (Fish and fishery Products for human consumption), and Organic Imports
The Official Control Regulation (EU) 2017/625 is the main legislation setting out the checks required on food imports.
Specific checks are imposed by:
High Risk Food Not Of Animal Origin
Commission Implementing Regulations (EU) 2019/1793 (as amended) lists and applies increased and emergency controls to High Risk Products of non-animal origin.
In addition to the foods listed in (EU) 2019/1793, the EU have specific import conditions for food:
- Originating in or consigned from Japan. Regulation 2016/6 (as amended)
- Certain mushrooms and fruit of the genus Vaccinium. Regulation 2020/1158
- Rice and rice products originating from China. Commission Decision 2011/884/EC (as amended)
- Jelly confectionery/mini cups. Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008
Products controlled by these regulations must enter the EU through a Border Control Post (BCP) Belfast is an EU approved BCP.
Importers and food business operators must pre-notify us at least one working day before the physical arrival of a consignment by completing Part 1 of the Common Health Entry Document (CHED-D) on TRACES-NT the EU’s online platform for importing HRFNAO.
Guidance on registering on TRACES-NT and completing the CHED’s can be found on the TRACES website at: TRACES-NT web help (link opens in new window).
There is a charge of £47 for carrying out the required documentary check, and any additional costs for sampling will be added.
High Risk Food not of Animal Origin moving from GB to Northern Ireland that comply with EU import requirements are not subject to this charge.
Plastic Kitchenware: Conditions of Import from China
Controls are in place for imports of polyamide and melamine plastic kitchenware that originated in, or is consigned from China and Hong Kong (CN code ex 3924 10 00).
For more information on the legislation visit the Food Standards Agency website (link opens in new window).
Products which are subject to this regulation, can only enter the EU through a BCP.
Importers and food business operators must notify Port Health at least two working days before the physical arrival of a consignment by submitting a declaration and an attached laboratory report of analysis for each consignment.
We charge a fee of £47 for carrying out the required documentary check, and there may be additional costs for sampling.
Plastic kitchenware that originated from China or was consigned from Hong Kong and conforms to EU import controls, moved from GB to Northern Ireland is not subject to this fee.
Fish and Fishery Products for Human Consumption POAO
There are strict rules for the commercial import from outside the European Union (EU) of fishery products, bivalve molluscs and products that contain them. Belfast is an approved BCP for the importation of frozen fishery products. They must:
- Come from an approved non-EU country
- Be accompanied by appropriate signed health certification
- Come from an EU-approved fishery product establishment, premises or approved bivalve mollusc production areas
- Enter the EU through an officially designated Border Control Post (BCP) where veterinary/hygiene checks are carried out by an Official Fish Inspector
- All consignments must be pre-notified to the BCP prior to arrival
Fish and Fishery products for human consumption must be pre-notified 24 hours prior to arrival in Belfast, on TRACES by completion of part 1 of a Common Health Entry Document (CHED).
The Official Control Regulation (EU) 2017/625 lays down the minimum harmonised charge in Euros for imports of POAO including Fish and Fishery products. The exchange rate which will apply from 1 January 2020 until exit day is set at €1.00 = £0.8974.
Fish or Fishery products including composite fishery products moving from GB to Northern Ireland that comply with EU import requirements are not subject to this harmonised charge.
In addition Council Regulation 2017/625 requires Member States of the EU to have a National Monitoring Plan to detect residues, pathogenic organisms or other dangerous substances.
This involves taking samples from prioritised consignments, depending on throughput and current risks. From 1 April 2020, to spread the cost of these sample the weight of each consignment will be rounded up to the nearest 1000kg and the invoice charge will be calculated on the rounded up weight. (for example 19,500kg will be rounded up to 20,000kgs.)
If any products are selected for sampling it may take up to 14 days for results to be received.
|Minimum fee in Euro
|Minimum fee in £(sterling)
|€55 per consignment up to 6 tonnes
|€9 per tonne up to 46 tonnes
|€420 per consignment over 46 tonnes
Break bulk consignment of fishery products
|Minimum fee in Euro
|Minimum fee in £(sterling)
|€600 per vessel up to 500 tonnes
|€1200 per vessel up to 1000 tonnes
|€2400 per vessel up to 2000 tonnes
|€3600 per vessel more than 2000 tonnes
All products from New Zealand have their charges reduced by 22.5 per cent in accordance with Annex VIII of Decision (EU) 2015/1084)1
|Minimum fee in Euro
|Minimum fee in £(sterling)
|€42.63 per consignment up to 6 tonnes
|€6.98 per tonne up to 46 tonnes
|€326 per consignment over 46 tonnes
These charges are subject to review and may change at short notice following guidance or instruction from the Food Standards Agency, or the European Union.
For an imported product to be sold as organic, it must conform to equivalent standards as EU produced goods, Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007. All organic products imported into the EU must have the appropriate electronic certificate of inspection (e-COI). This e-COI has to be endorsed at the point of entry into the EU by the Port Health Authority.
Importers and food business operators must pre-notify us at least one working day before the physical arrival of a consignment by completing the e-COI on TRACES-NT.
Defra (organic imports) oversee organic imports into the UK, advice can be found on the Defra (organic imports) web pages (link opens in new window).
We charge a fee of £45 for carrying out the required documentary check, and endorsing the e-COI, there may be additional costs for sampling.
Organic products moving from GB to Northern Ireland that comply with EU import requirements are not subject to this fee.
For guidance and queries on importing any of the above-mentioned products, refer to the Food Standards Agency (link opens in new window).
You can find food labelling guidance, including information about health and identification marks on the Food Standards Agency website (link opens in new window), and information about food and drink labelling changes on GOV.UK (link opens in new window).