With more environmentally friendly forms of interment gaining popularity, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) is enhancing its free ferry services for scattering cremated human ashes at sea by employing a bigger vessel, which can accommodate more than 300 passengers, from 14 January 2012.

Apart from offering a more stable and comfortable sea voyage, the bigger vessel will also provide a spacious venue for family members and friends to hold memorial ceremonies for the deceased.

A funeral director will be on board to assist family members and friends in the memorial ceremonies. There will also be facilities to accommodate different religious rituals. After the memorial ceremonies, family members and friends can pass the cremains of their beloved, together with fresh petals, to the embrace of nature.

Officers from the FEHD will be available to assist family members to create personalised memorial pages for the deceased on the Internet Memorial Service. Family members can then pay tribute to their beloved anywhere and at any time online in future.

As the free ferry service for scattering cremated ashes at sea is well received by the public, the FEHD further increased the number of sailings to once every Saturday (except public holiday). The vessel will depart at 9am from North Point (East) Passenger Ferry Pier on the designated mornings to south of the West Lamma Channel or east of Tung Lung Chau. Each ferry trip can accommodate 25 applicants, and each applicant can bring up to ten family members, relatives or friends on board. Applicants who wish to bring more relatives and friends may contact the FEHD for suitable arrangement whenever situation permits.

The number of people choosing to scatter cremated ashes of the deceased at sea has increased fivefold over the past few years, from 160 applications in 2007 to more than 800 in 2015. Most of the applicants these days make use of the free ferry service provided by the department, while other applicants arrange their own vessels.

The department will monitor closely the public response and consider additional ferry schedules if necessary.

In addition to the free ferry services for scattering cremated ashes at sea, since 2014 Ching Ming Festival the FEHD has invited previous users of the services to free rides on ferry to the designated areas for scattering ashes at sea around the grave-sweeping seasons to pay tributes to the deceased.

Application forms and relevant guidance notes on scattering human ashes at sea are available on the FEHD's website (www.fehd.gov.hk). Completed application forms should be submitted to the Hong Kong or Kowloon Permit Offices of the FEHD's Cemeteries and Crematoria Section at least 10 days prior to the proposed date for scattering cremated human ashes.

Approval will normally be given within five working days from the date of receipt of the application form, while the applicant or the person authorised by the applicant can select any designated ferry schedules within 10 weeks from the date of submitting the application form.