Funeral at sea

A funeral at sea is burying the ashes of the deceased into the sea..

Since 1934 it is possible in Germany to bury the ashes into the sea instead of a traditional funeral in a cemetery. The ashes are put into a special urn and buried in designated areas according to the customs of the sailors. The captain holds the funeral sermon. In these special areas it is not allowed to fish or to practice any water sports. This is possible in almost every sea. In Germany it is predominantly done in the North Sea or Baltic Sea, but also in the Atlantic and the Mediterranian Sea.

The urns are made of suitable materials such as cellulosis, pressed sandstone or other minerals. They dissolve in the water shortly after burying the urn into the sea.

The exact coordinates are written into the logbook. If requested, the relatives receive a certificate with these coordinates and a copy of the ship's logbook.

The procedure of a funeral at sea

Usually, a funeral service and cremation take place in the hometown of the deceased. After cremation we will send the urn to a shipping company. There the ashes are filled into an urn, which dissolves in the water. The relatives can choose whether they want to take part at the burial at sea or not. If they decide to take part, it is called an accompanied funeral; if not it is called a silent funeral. The captain and his crew are wearing uniforms during the funeral. Hissing the flag, different types of music (national anthem, funeral songs) and blowing the mate's whistle are common rituals. After a short speech, the urn is put into the sea and sometimes flowers, too, in order to symbolise the burial place.

Requirements for a funeral at sea in Germany

A funeral at sea needs to be allowed by the local authorities.Therefore it is necessary that the deceased was well connected to the sea. This could be a former employment as a sailor or a mental connection to the sea. In general, a declaration of the deceased for the local authorities suffices. It is adviced to write an instruction including the wishes about the type of burial in order to prevent any doubts.It is also adviced that the instruction is confirmed by another person.

In order to prevent any disturbances for ships and people at the beach, there are strict rules for a funeral at sea. The Water and Shipping Authority Stralsund marked an area for funerals at sea. In addition, according to the Water Law a permission is needed.

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