Blog thumbnail

Burial at Sea

Can I be buried at sea?

Yes. It’s not very common, and there’s a little bit of organisation and paperwork involved, but there’s no reason why you can’t have a burial at sea.

It’s true, there are some costs that you or your family will have to bear in mind when you’re planning the funeral – but if a marine send-off is what you’d prefer, then it’s all possible. Here, we’ll look at funerals at sea in general and explain the admin for this form of ceremony. 

Are there any restrictions on who can be buried at sea?

Not in the UK, no. The Royal Navy conducts its own services for veterans, but anyone can be buried at sea, just as long as the person who’s arranging the funeral has applied for and received a licence from the Marine Management Organisation (the MMO).

Where can I be buried at sea?

There are rules around this. The MMO would prefer burials to take place in one of three places. Off The Needles, near the Isle of Wight; between Hastings and Newhaven; or just off Tynemouth, North Tyneside.

If you’d like to be buried at sea in a different location, perhaps for family reasons or for connections to your service history, then you can still apply for a licence – but you’ll need to show that the proposed burial location is suitable. That means demonstrating there’s no problem with water depth, currents, offshore pipelines or commercial fishing zones.

You can find out more about this directly from the MMO’s website.

Which paperwork do I need to be buried at sea?

Well, in addition to the MMO licence, you’ll need to make sure the funeral director has a copy of your death certificate, a Certificate of Freedom from Fever and Infection (which your GP or the hospital doctor will have to provide), and a ‘Notice to a Coroner of Intention to Remove a Body out of England’ statement. Again, that’s available from the coroner.

Could I be buried in a canvas shroud, just like in the movies?

No, not in the UK. When you’re making an application to the MMO, you’ll have to agree that the coffin will be made from solid softwood. It mustn’t contain any contaminants – things like plastic, lead, copper or zinc – and to make sure that the coffin sinks quickly, several 50mm holes will be drilled into it. About 200kg (440lb) will be clamped to its base.

Would it be alright to have my ashes scattered at sea, instead?

Yes. Anyone can scatter your ashes at sea, and there’s no special licence needed. In fact, your ashes may be scattered into the sea from any beach, anywhere in the UK. This is one reason why many families choose direct cremation and a direct cremation funeral plan – because there’s no need to involve a funeral director, either.

You’d be in good company too, as several well-known people have elected to have their ashes scattered in the same way. Alfred Hitchcock, Janis Joplin (in the Pacific Ocean), Dad’s Army actor John Laurie, Edmund Hillary (in New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf), and Robin Williams (in San Francisco Bay).