Ship Sanitation Certificate Information

Frequently Asked Questions about Ship Sanitation Certificates in the United States

Audience: This document is for cargo vessel crew, vessel companies, port authorities, private companies, maritime government agencies, and anyone interested in the status of ship sanitation control certificates in the United States.

Purpose: This document clarifies that the CDC currently does not require ships to present ship sanitation control certificates when calling on US ports and that cargo vessels cannot obtain a ship sanitation control or exemption certificate in the United States.

Background: On May 23, 2005, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted a revised version of the International Health Regulations (IHR), effective for most countries on June 15, 2007. The IHR (2005) contained changes intended to increase international coordination of information, reporting, and response to public health emergencies, including a new ship certification scheme. The new certificates, entitled Ship Sanitation Control Certificate/Ship Sanitation Control Exemption Certificate (“Ship Sanitation Certificates” or SSCC/SSCEC), replaced the previous Deratting/Deratting Exemption Certificates (DC/DEC) provided for under the IHR (1969). Accordingly, legacy DCs are no longer valid as of December 15, 2007.

Who is authorized to issue Ship Sanitation Certificates in the United States?

No port authorities, public agencies, or private organizations are authorized to issue SSCCs/SSCECs in the United States.

The authority to issue, inspect, and require SSCCs/SSCECs within the United States or its territories resides solely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Global Migration Health (DGMH), the “Competent Authority” under the IHR (2005) for U.S. ports of entry. Any certificates issued by private companies in the United States are not valid.

While CDC DGMH is the Competent Authority under the IHR (2005), the authority to issue SSCCs/SSCECs for specific purposes has been delegated to certain U.S. government agencies/programs.

  • The U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard may conduct inspections and issue SSCCs/SSCECs for certain types of ships, primarily vessels of their services and those of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • The CDC Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) may choose to issue SSCCs/SSCECs upon request during VSP inspections of cruise ships. Please contact VSP ( with questions about sanitation inspections on cruise ships.

Are ships required to have a SSCC/SSCEC to enter United States ports?

No, CDC does not currently require these certificates for ships arriving at U.S. ports of entry to embark or disembark passengers, crew, or cargo within the United States. However, CDC reserves the right to inspect vessels if a public health concern is identified or suspected.

Under federal regulations found at 42 C.F.R. §71.31, CDC grants controlled free pratique to vessels entering U.S. ports of entry.

Port authorities, public agencies, and private organizations are prohibited from requiring SSCECs/SSCCs for seafaring vessels at U.S. ports of entry. Such actions would contradict CDC’s exercise of federal authority under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

What if a cargo ship at a U.S. port of entry needs a SSCC/SSCEC for its next destination?

The ship will not be able to obtain this certificate in the United States. The ship will need to obtain the certification in another country at one of the ports listed at the following link:

There is NO authorized way for a cargo vessel to obtain a Ship Sanitation Certificate in the United States at this time.

Any certificates issued by private companies in the United States are not valid.

Who can I contact about questions regarding SSCCs/SSCECs in the United States?

For additional questions about Ship Sanitation Certificates, you can contact the Maritime Activity Team within CDC DGMH at

If you have questions specifically about ship sanitation inspections on cruise ships, please contact CDC VSP at