JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
When it comes to public health, the Naval Health Clinic Charleston preventive medicine department provides a frontline defense for prevention of communicable diseases.
All ships are required to have a shipboard sanitation exemption certificate in order to dock internationally, and the preventive medicine department provides just that.
"The certificate tells foreign ports that the ship isn't carrying any diseases or pests that are a concern to public health," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Wilson Araujo, NHCC preventive medicine technician. "Every ship has to have it."
Araujo and his team were inspecting the USNS Zeus (T-ARC-7), the only ship of her type and currently operated by the U.S. Navy.
According to the Military Sealift Command website, The USNS Zeuz is one of 15 ships in the Military Sealift Command's Service Support Ships Program. Her primary missions are to transport, deploy, retrieve and repair submarine cables.
The NHCC inspection team begins the inspection with a look at the exterior of the ship, checking for protection against rodents and their ability to get onto the ship. After that initial assessment, the inspection team goes aboard to continue the inspection throughout the entire vessel.
The main areas being inspected include the galley and all food preparation areas, the engineering spaces, living quarters and overall ship sanitation.
"One critical thing we look for is what the crew does to avoid pest infestation and what their prevention methods are," said Araujo. "The reasoning behind this is that pests are vectors for communicable diseases."
"This is how diseases were spread," said Araujo. "Pests and rodents would find their way onboard a ship travelling internationally, bringing unwanted diseases to new areas."
And even though today's high standards and inspections lessen the threat of communicable diseases spreading via ship, the problem still exists, and as such, inspections continue.
"Overall the USNS Zeus satisfied the requirements of the shipboard sanitation inspection and earned their certificate which is good for another six months," said Araujo. "Until then, it's on to the next ship."