New safety strategy to avoid sea deaths, as figures show 99% are male

Plan includes 33 actions under headings such as information and communication, and search and rescue operations

The overwhelming majority of people who die at sea are male, with just two female fatalities over a twelve year period, according to a new safety strategy launched by Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe.

Mr Donohoe said that while the average annual deaths at sea, standing at 11, is low, people who take to the water must be responsible for their own safety as well as others on board with them.

The strategy identifies the actions the Department of Transport, through the Irish Maritime Administration (IMA), will take to help increase safety.

Between 2002 and 2013, there were 2013 deaths at sea, with 67 related to recreational craft, 53 to fishing vessels, 11 to passenger vessels and six to cargo ships.


Of the recreational vessel deaths, the vast majority, 44, were due to a boat capsizing, 20 to people falling overboard, one from a collision with another boat and two from people who drowned while to swim to safety after their engine cut out.

Mr Donohoe said it is striking that 99 per cent of maritime deaths at sea are male, with an average age of 44. Of 137 deaths on the water between 2002 and 2013, only two were women.

The new safety strategy, spanning from 2015 to 2019, sets out 33 actions under the five headings of information and communication; search and rescue operations; standards; enforcement and data and evaluation.

The Minister said it is recognised that, in order to reduce fatalities, the focus needs to be on changing culture and personal behaviour rather than introducing more regulations.

Mr Donohoe also said marine casualty investigation board reports identified the top 10 factors in sea accidents, which included the need for an enhanced maritime safety culture, unsuitable or inadequate safety equipment, unseaworthy vessels, failure to wear lifejackets or other flotation devices, lack of crew training and a failure to plan journeys safely.

He said “deaths in the maritime sector are potentially avoidable”.

“Notwithstanding the efforts of my department in terms of preventative action, enforcement and emergency response, these efforts cannot on their own improve maritime safety,” he said.

“It is up to each individual who takes to the water to take personal responsibility for their actions and to understand that failure to operate safely puts not just their own life at risk, but the lives of others on board and potentially the lives of emergency and rescue personnel.”