Stephen E.Roberts, Peter Marlow: Work related mortality among merchant s...

Start2006Stephen E.Roberts, Peter Ma...


Over 2300 merchant seafarers are currently employed on board UK Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ships. However, little is known about work related mortality among these seafarers, and whether it is lower than among seafarers in merchant fleets.


To establish the causes and circumstances of all work related deaths among seafarers who were employed in RFA ships from 1976 to 2005, to compare mortality rates with those in other merchant fleets, and to identify implications for maritime health.


A population based study of work related mortality over 30 years.


A total of 60 deaths among seafarers in RFA ships were caused by disease (30), accidents (19), suicide (6), homicide (one), and inconclusive causes (4). Six of the 19 fatal accidents were directly related to work duties (occupational accidents), 12 occurred during off-duty time and one resulted from a shipping disaster. The fatal accident rate was about one half, and the fatal work related accident rate was about one quarter, of corresponding rates in UK merchant shipping from 1976-2002; and they were much lower than those in merchant fleets internationally. The fatal accident rate in RFA shipping also fell by about 80% over the 30 year study period.


The lower fatal accident rates in RFA shipping, particularly for work related accidents, presumably reflect a lower incidence of hazardous working practices, arising from better training and career pathways for seafarers in RFA shipping, as well as better maintained ships with higher manning levels than in merchant shipping.

Key words

Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships, seafarers, fatal accidents, mortality rates.

Dr Stephen E.Roberts, School of Medicine, Swansea University
Peter B.Marlow, Cardif Business School, Cardiff University

Correspondence to:
Dr Stephen E.Roberts,
School of Medicine,
Swansea University,
Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK