For the design of ships as well as for the investigation of ship accidents it is important to have knowledge about both the two dimensional spectral wave properties as well as extreme value statistics of ocean waves. Although numerical wave models have reached a high level of accuracy, they still have weaknesses with respect to the details of the 2-D wave spectrum. Furthermore standard models like WAM provide estimates of the 2-D wave spectrum, i.e., second order sea state statistics and therefore lack information on individual wave properties and the occurrence of extreme events. In this study the potential of global Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) wave mode data acquired by the European satellites ERS-2 and ENVISAT to investigate ship accidents is discussed and compared to altimeter data and ECMWF model results. These data are acquired independent of light and weather conditions on a global scale. A historic data set of ERS-2 wave mode data acquired between 1998 and 2000 is co-located with accidents which occurred during that time. ENVISAT ASAR wave mode data acquired since 2002 are considered, too. Different ocean wave parameters like significant wave height and wave periods are derived from the SAR data. The potential role of the respective wave conditions for some recent accident is discussed in detail. This includes in particular the analysis of cross sea conditions, groupiness and extreme events.

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