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March 22, 2013

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Ship doubles capacity for sea burials as demand rises

A SECOND ship has been added to the sea burial service in the city as demand has outpaced capacity after a fivefold increase in government subsidies for the service took effect this year, officials said yesterday.

Each of the ships being used this year has a 250-person capacity.

Some families that had applied for sea burials for loved ones' ashes had been told they would have to wait until 2015.

With the ferry business in decline in the city, it had become difficult to find ships large enough, and some ship owners wouldn't participate.

But a ship on the verge of being retired underwent maintenance and has been put into service, said Zhang Yunhua, manager of the Shanghai FIS Funeral Service Center, which arranges the sea burial service in the city.

Weather dictates that sea burials are conducted during six months a year. Eighteen trips are scheduled this year, with the first taking place tomorrow. Up to six people for each of the deceased can board.

There are more than 2,000 urns of ashes waiting to be scattered at sea, and the goal is to scatter all of them this year, Zhang said.

The subsidy has been increased from 400 yuan (US$64) to 2,000 yuan. The relatives of each deceased person get 1,000 yuan, and the other 1,000 yuan is used to cover costs including shuttle buses, ship tickets and insurance. To date, 25,563 urns of ash have been scattered at sea, saving some 76,689 square meters of land. The city aims to make sea burials 2 percent of total burials, up from the present 1.5 percent.


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