- A Guide to Funerals and Funeral Directors
Find a Funeral Director

Burial at sea

Around 50 people are buried at sea each year in the UK, although the ceremonies can be difficult to organize. It’s easy to see why the idea would be appealing; you may have a loved one who spent their life on the water, or who enjoyed the peace and serenity offered by the waves, and wishes to be laid to rest beneath them.

If they have asked you to make the sea their final resting place then it can be done, but unfortunately there are a series of hurdles which have to be negotiated first.

There are normally only two sites where burials at sea are allowed to take place:

- Off the Needles, Isle of the Wight

- Between Hastings and Newhaven, on the South Coast

There is also an emergency site off the Northumberland coast, near Tynemouth, but permission to use this is only granted in exceptional circumstances and requires a special license from the Marine Management Organisation, the body which grants permission for burials at sea to take place. Special applications can also be made to use additional sites, but these require a lengthy consultation process between various government bodies before permission will be granted.  

Even a burial at sea in one of the permitted sites requires a license. Details of how to obtain one from the Marine Management Organization can be found here.

The most important thing to remember is that before applying for one of these licenses you need to have been issued with the following pieces of paperwork:

- Copy of the death certificate

- Doctor’s note certifying the deceased is free from fever and infection

- Notice of intention to remove a body from England (available from a coroner)

Once you have been granted a license, there are further restrictions on the type of coffin and how the deceased must be dressed and prepared. You must inform the undertaker from the outset that they cannot be embalmed, as embalmed bodies will be not be given a license on environmental grounds.

This type of funeral is also likely to be more expensive than a typical burial because there are the additional costs of hiring a boat, getting a weighted coffin and so on.

Anyone planning this kind of funeral should also be warned of the risk that a body won’t stay on the sea floor. Occasionally they get caught in a tide and are returned to shore, or they get caught up in fishing lines. Anyone who is buried at sea has to be laid to rest with the contact details of their next of kin securely fastened to their body, and there is the upsetting possibility that you will be contacted if the body re-emerges.

The actual burial service can be conducted on the harbourside, or onboard the boat itself. Some funeral directors in the vicinity of the two licensed burial at sea sites may be very experienced with the special arrangements that this kind of funeral entails.

YouTube Facebook App Store