You can be buried at sea if you wish. Here’s what it takes

Sailors salute during a burial at sea ceremony on the USS Enterprise. (DoD photo via AP Images, released after a Freedom of Information Act request)

(NEXSTAR) – You may only think of servicemen buried in the ocean, but the lore isn’t just for the armed forces. Under the right circumstances, anyone can skip a traditional graveyard in favor of a boat farewell.

the United States Environmental Protection Agency has settings for burials at sea, however.

Here are some of the basics:

  • Although the EPA does not charge, a burial at sea must be authorized by the agency with a general license
  • Human remains can be released in ocean waters at least three nautical miles away a way from the shore
  • Only human remains can be released (no animals remain)
  • Flowers, wreaths and other typical burial objects can be placed, but they must be easily decomposable (not plastic)

How are bodies prepared for burials at sea?

Bodies buried at sea can either be cremated, in a traditional coffin, or not cremated and not in a coffin (i.e. the body is simply released directly into the ocean).

  • Cremated remains: All or even parts of a body can be scattered as ashes in the sea, the EPA explains. However, there are a few rules. Cremated remains can include the casket if it was burned as part of the process, but metal objects must be removed by the crematorium beforehand. The cremated remains of a person who had medical waste inside his body are do not authorized
  • Not cremated in a coffin: holes should be drilled in the coffin to help it sink. Additional weight, such as sandbags or lead-free concrete, must be added to the interior to achieve a total weight of 300 pounds. The extra weight helps compensate for the buoyancy of the body and coffin, the EPA says. At least six chains must be attached around the coffin to keep it closed
  • Not cremated and not in a coffin: a natural fiber shroud should be wrapped around the body, in addition to extra weight, such as chains

Can any boat be used for a burial at sea?

Other than using a personal boat (or one that the driver is licensed to drive), there are some options for recovering a body or staying three nautical miles from shore.

  • Charter boat companies can offer burial-at-sea services, EPA says
  • Military veterans and their spouses may be eligible for burial at sea through the US Navy or the US Coast Guard
  • Burial officials are required to notify the EPA within 30 days of the event, according to the EPA

Can a funeral pyre be burned?

Unfortunately, Viking funerals are not permitted by the EPA. Floating a flaming body and flammable structure out to sea can generate smoke, ash, and debris. Agency says vessel carrying body out to sea must be structure returning

What are the advantages of burials at sea?

In an interview with the Los Angeles TimesJudah Ben-Hur, owner of Argos Cremation and Burials, said the average cost of a sea burial is between $5,000 and $10,000.

Burials at sea could potentially be less expensive than ordinary burial costs in some cases, although the National Association of Funeral Directors says the average cost of a funeral, including interment, is $7,848. Service needs or wants would dictate which process makes the most financial sense.

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