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The Licensing Authority (MMO)

The Licensing Authority (MMO) reserves the right to inspect the body and coffin and will give at least one day's notice of their intention to do so.

Conditions to be observed

Certificate of Freedom from Fever and Infection

Because of the possibility of water-borne infections, a "Certificate of Freedom from Fever and Infection" must be obtained from the deceased General Practitioner or hospital doctor before a licence is issued. If for any reason a doctor is not prepared to issue a Certificate, burial at sea will not be permitted.

Removal of Body out of England

The Births and Deaths Registration Act 1926 requires that a body shall not be removed out of England (including Wales) until the expiration of 4 clear days. This certificate must be obtained before a burial at sea may take place.

Embalmed Bodies Not Permitted To Be Buried At Sea

Whilst acknowledging that embalming is the established, hygienic and most convenient way of preserving a body before burial, bodies that have been subjected to an embalming process will not be permitted to be buried at sea. This is because embalming substantially delays decomposition of the body tissues, thereby increasing the chance that the body may be returned to shore by tidal currents or being caught in fishing gear, to the distress of all concerned.

Acceptable Materials

The body may be lightly clad, commensurate with modesty, in biodegradable material.

Bio-degradable, absorbent padding may be used to absorb any leakage of body fluids.

To ensure that only natural, non-toxic and biodegradable materials enter the marine environment, the coffin and any inner box or liner must be constructed from solid softwood (rather than veneered board or solid hardwood) and must not contain or have fittings made of plastic, lead, copper or zinc.

Specifications for the Coffin – see MMO specifications

The coffin will be subjected to considerable stress when entering the sea and during its descent to the seabed and must be constructed in such a way as to ensure that it will withstand any impact and carry the body to its final resting place. All corners of the coffin should be butt-jointed and strengthened with either mild steel right-angle brackets screwed internally or substantial wooden bracing struts (e.g. 50mm x 38mm).

40 to 50 holes of 50mm (2") should be drilled in the coffin. This allows the rapid ingress of water and exit of air, thereby ensuring that the coffin will sink quickly to the seabed.

To ensure that the body remains on the seabed it is required that approximately 200kg (4cwt) in total of iron, steel or concrete should be clamped to the base of the coffin with brackets of 10mm mild steel bar. Experience has shown that blocks of a weak concrete mix are suitable. The weight should be distributed in such a way that will resist any tendency for the coffin to assume a vertical position.

A system of mild steel banding must be applied to the coffin with 2 bands around the longitudinal axis and bands also at approximately 30cm intervals around the coffin along its length to ensure that it withstands the impact on entry to the sea and deposit on the seabed.


A band of plastic or other durable material should be locked around the neck of the deceased and this band should be either punch-marked or indelibly marked with a telephone number and reference number that would allow the remains to be positively identified should the need arise.

Burials & Ashes at Sea with

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