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Births and Deaths

Registering births and deaths on board

When there is a birth or someone dies on board a vessel, there are important processes to be followed.

What happens when there's a birth or death on board

Under The Merchant Shipping Act of 1995, the Registry of Shipping and Seamen (RSS), part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, is responsible for registering any birth or death that occurs aboard a vessel in the following circumstances:

  • A person who has given birth or has died on board a UK registered vessel, or
  • A British citizen who has been born or died on board a non-UK registered vessel

How to inform the authorities of a birth or death on board

For UK Flagged vessels, the master should inform RSS by completing MSF 4605 rev 05/19 (RBD 1). Email the team at to obtain this form.

For non-UK Flagged vessels, to notify of a birth or death of a British citizen the master can follow the same process. This, however, is not compulsory and is at the discretion of the flag state of the vessel involved. The master should inform RSS by completing MSF 4606 (RBD 3). Email the team at to obtain this form.

Certified Extract

The fee for a certified extract of birth or death is £6. A certified extract, issued by the RSS, is an official document that is a marine equivalent to a standard birth or death certificate and is accepted by probate authorities in the UK.

What happens next?

Once the RSS has received all the necessary paperwork, a birth or death registration should be completed within three working days.

Further help on registering births and deaths on board

If you are the master of a vessel and you need further advice on reporting births and deaths at sea, or to make a formal birth or death registration, you can email the team at or phone +44 (0)20 3908 5200.

  • Frequently Asked Questions

  • The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is responsible under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

    Once we have assessed that the birth/death can be registered, you may apply for a “Certified extract of a return of birth/death" at a cost of £6.00 per certificate.

    It takes three working days providing and solely dependent on how long it can take for the Vessel’s, Shipping Companies and all other relevant organizations to submit the correct documentation to this office. However, if someone is lost at sea and a body is not recovered it will take longer as it may be necessary to hold an inquiry under the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 or await the finding of an HM Coroner’s inquest.

    If a postmortem or an inquiry into the medical cause of death must be determined.

    This can be obtained directly from the Registry of Shipping and Seamen. Please email

    For all foreign flagged vessels, Masters can obtain MSF 4506 (RBD 3) available direct from the Registry of Shipping and Seamen. However, we can only request you complete this as you are not a UK Flagged vessel.

    You will be able to apply to the Registry of Shipping and Seamen for additional certificates at any time, provided we still have the records at this office.

    As a worldwide agency this service is available entirely by post and email.

    It is the Maritime equivalent of a full death/birth certificate and is recognized by all probate authorities in the United Kingdom.