Can I Have A Burial At Sea?

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For many of us, our lives in one way or another, include a large portion beside the ocean. It has to be one of the most wonderful things about living in Queensland, the best beaches in the world are right on our doorstep.  Whether it be fishing, surfing, swimming, or some other type of water sport, most Queenslanders have a little bit of the ocean in their blood.

So when it comes time for a funeral, we often try to think of ways that we can incorporate our lifetime passions into our life’s end celebration.  For some, the idea of a Sea Burial is a perfect tribute to a loved one who has spent their life passionate about the ocean.  It may be that your loved one served in the Navy, or that they just had a passion for boating and being out on the water. Whatever the reason, the option of a Sea Burial could be available to you and your family.

It is important to note that a Sea Burial is NOT guaranteed for everyone though.  In Australia, Sea Burials are regulated under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981, not the most glamorous of acts to regulate a funeral, but it is what it is, and they require permission from the commonwealth, and sometimes state government, to take place.

This involves the application of a sea dumping permit (it’s good to note here that scattering ashes at sea does NOT require any permit or authorisation), and these permits are generally permitted to people who have served as Navy personnel or who have a long standing history as a fisherman/woman.

There are some pretty strict rules when it comes to Sea Burials and delivering each of the requirements under the act can be arduous, but if it is something that you really want to do, then let’s have a closer look at what needs to happen!

You will need to engage a Funeral Director who will complete all of the necessary paperwork for you to commence the process.  The first stage is to apply for the sea dumping permit and to pay the application fee. This application is in-depth and requires considerable knowledge from the Funeral Director, the Captain of the Vessel and the Operational Funeral Staff. It also requires a detailed statement of justification as to why a Sea Burial is being requested.

To assist with this statement, you could encourage your Loved One to include that they want a Sea Burial in their will, along with the reasons why this is their wish and any supporting evidence (their Naval Service Record, details of their life as a Fisherman/woman etc) that will assist the Minister in making their decision.

Your Funeral Director will liaise with an appropriate Charter Operator who has suitable seaworthy vessels for conducting a Sea Burial and will work closely with them, the Family (you) and all other parties involved to complete the application and to find a suitable location for the Sea Burial.

Sometimes the most difficult part of the process is finding a suitable location.  It needs to have a suitable depth (at least 3000m), not conflict with any other sea activities (trawling, shipping etc), which usually means that it will be located quite a distance offshore, however again, not impossible.

If your permit is granted, your Funeral Directors will then set about preparing your loved one for a Sea Burial.  The person being buried at sea is not able to be embalmed, does not require a coffin, and is usually sewn into a heavy canvas shroud that is weighted to ensure a rapid and permanent decent to the ocean floor.

When it comes time for the Sea Burial and funeral service to take place, the number of people who can attend will be limited based on the size and capacity of the vessel and the OHS requirements of the Charter Operator.  usually this means that only immediate family can attend the actual Sea Burial.  A good idea would be to conduct a funeral service in a traditional chapel, just like you would for any other burial or cremation, and then have the immediate family and Funeral Directors move on to the vessel with your loved one for their final interment at sea.

The service has the potential to be an incredible and memorable experience for families, however it also has the potential to be a little confronting too. Bad weather, rough seas, sea sickness, strong winds, can all have an impact on the service and the family experience. However, any Navy person or fisherman/woman that has spent time on the ocean, knows that she is a fierce beast and these issues might just add to the experience.

A Sea Burial is a beautiful thing for some people and something that we take a great deal of pride in arranging and conducting.  It may not be the perfect interment for everyone, but if a Sea Burial is at the top of your Loved Ones end of life planning list, then let’s do it!

If you have questions about a Sea Burial or about funerals in general, why not get in touch with us on 1300 043 522 or email family@mccartneyfunerals.com.au

*Our Funeral Blog is a place for information and learning, so if there is something that you would like to know, why not shout out to us on social media so we can answer your questions in one of our future blogs!*

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