Births and Deaths

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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 and you can find out more about them here.

What happens when there's a birth or someone dies on board?

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

  • a person who has given birth or has died on a UK-flagged vessel;
  • a British citizen who has been born or died on a vessel.

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

For UK-flagged vessels, the Master should inform the RSS by completing MSF 4605 rev 05/14(RBD1) which is obtainable through RSS.

Masters of non-UK-flagged vessels are also advised to follow the same process, but this is not compulsory and is at the discretion of the Flag state of the vessel involved.

The fee for a certified extract of birth/death is £6. (A certified extract is an official document which is equivalent to a standard birth/death certificate and is accepted by probate authorities in the UK.)

What happens next?

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

Need more help?

If you are a vessel master and you need further advice on reporting births and deaths at sea, please contact the Registry of Shipping and Seaman by contacting us.

To make a formal Birth/Death registration please contact us RSS on (+44) 02920 448844.


Frequently Asked Questions

Who has the responsibility for the registration of births/deaths at sea?

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

How do I get a certificate?

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

How long does the process of registration take?

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.

Why would HM Coroner be involved concerning a death?

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

I’m a Master of a United Kingdom flagged vessel, how can I obtain an MSF4605 (RBD1) form?

This can be obtained direct from the Registry of Shipping and Seamen.

I’m a Master of a Foreign Flagged vessel, what should I do if a death occurs aboard my vessel of any British, Overseas & Dependent Territories citizen?

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.

What if I need to get more death certificates in the future?

You will be able to apply to RSS for additional certificates at any time, as long as we still have the records at this office.

Do I have to come to your office to register the birth/death?

As a Worldwide Agency this service is available entirely by post and email.

What is a Certified Extract of a Return of Death/Birth?

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