Seasteading is the concept of creating permanent dwellings at sea, called seasteads, outside the territory claimed by the government of any standing nation. Most proposed seasteads have been modified cruising vessels. Other proposed structures have included a refitted oil platform, a decommissioned anti-aircraft platform, and custom-built floating islands. No one has created a state on the high seas that has been recognized as a sovereign nation, although the Principality of Sealand is a disputed micronation formed on a discarded sea fort near Suffolk, England.
At least two people independently began using the term, which is a portmanteau of sea and homesteading: Ken Neumeyer in his book Sailing the Farm (1981) and Wayne Gramlich in his article "Seasteading – Homesteading on the High Seas" (1998).
Outside the Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nautical miles (370 km), which countries can claim according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the high seas are not subject to the laws of any sovereign nation other than the flag under which a ship sails. Examples of organizations using this possibility are Women on Waves, enabling abortions for women in countries where abortions are subject to strict laws, and offshore radio stations which were anchored in international waters. Like these organizations, a seastead might be able to take advantage of the looser laws and regulations that exist outside the sovereignty of nations, and be largely self-governing.
"When Seasteading becomes a viable alternative, switching from one government to another would be a matter of sailing to the other without even leaving your house," said Patri Friedman at the first annual Seasteading conference.
The Seasteading Institute
The Seasteading Institute (TSI), founded by Wayne Gramlich and Patri Friedman on April 15, 2008, is an organization formed to facilitate the establishment of autonomous, mobile communities on seaborne platforms operating in international waters. Gramlich’s 1998 article "SeaSteading – Homesteading on the High Seas" outlined the notion of affordable steading, and attracted the attention of Friedman with his proposal for a small-scale project. The two began working together and posted their first collaborative book online in 2001, which explored aspects of seasteading from waste disposal to flags of convenience.
The project picked up mainstream exposure in 2008 after having been brought to the attention of PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel, who invested $500,000 in the institute and has since spoken out on behalf of its viability, most recently in his essay "The Education of a Libertarian", published online by Cato Unbound. TSI has received widespread media attention from sources such as CNN, Wired, Prospect, and The Economist. American journalist John Stossel wrote an article about seasteading in February 2011 and hosted Patri Friedman on his show on the Fox Business Network.
On July 31, 2011, Friedman stepped down from the role of executive director, and became chairman of the board. The institute's president is currently Michael Keenan. Concomitantly, the institute's directors of business strategy and legal strategy went on to start Blueseed, the first commercial seasteading venture.
Between May 31 and June 2, 2012, The Seasteading Institute held its third annual conference.
In July 2012, the institute was transferred ownership of the vessel Opus Casino by a donor. Plans are underway to lease or sell the vessel to a business that would further the research on long-term ocean habitation.
Retrofitted cruise ships
The first seasteads are projected to be cruise ships adapted for semi-permanent habitation. Cruise ships are a proven technology, and they address most of the challenges of living at sea for extended periods of time. The cost of the first shipstead was estimated at $10M.
The Seasteading Institute has been working on communities floating above the sea in spar buoys, similar to oil platforms. The project would start small, using proven technology as much as possible, and try to find viable, sustainable ways of running a seastead. Innovations that enable full-time living at sea will have to be developed. The cruise ship industry's development suggests this may be possible.
A proposed design for a custom-built seastead is a floating dumbbell in which the living area is high above sea level, which minimizes the influence of waves. In 2004, research was documented in an online book that covers living on the oceans.
The Seasteading Institute focuses on three areas: building a community, doing research and building the first seastead in the San Francisco Bay. In January 2009, the Seasteading Institute patented a design for a 200-person resort seastead, ClubStead, about a city block in size, produced by consultancy firm Marine Innovation & Technology. ClubStead marked the first major development in hard engineering, from extensive analysis to simulations, of the seasteading movement.
At the Seasteading Institute Forum, an idea arose to create an island from modules. There are several different designs for the modules, with a general consensus that reinforced concrete is the most proven, sustainable and cost-effective material for seastead structures, as indicated by use in oil platforms and concrete submarines.
Many architects and firms have created designs for floating cities, including Vincent Callebaut, Paolo Soleri and companies as Shimizu and Tangram 3DS. Marshall Savage also discussed building tethered artificial islands in his book The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps, with several color plates illustrating his ideas. Some design competitions companies such as Evolo have also yielded designs.
Friedman and Gramlich had hoped to float the first prototype seastead in the San Francisco Bay by 2010 but current plans are to launch a seastead by 2014. The Seasteading Institute projects that in 2014, the seasteading population will exceed 150 individuals.
The Seasteading Institute held its first conference in Burlingame, California, October 10, 2008. 45 people from 9 countries attended. The second Seasteading conference was significantly larger, and held in San Francisco, California, September 28–30, 2009.
The first "Ephemerisle" event was held October 2–4, 2009, on the Sacramento River delta in California by The Seasteading Institute. A second Ephemerisle event scheduled for July 22–25, 2010, was canceled by organizers. TSI cited "unexpectedly high insurance costs" as the reason and stated that it would indefinitely postpone plans for a future Ephemerisle to concentrate on its research initiatives. However, many attendees still gathered in the same location on the planned date for a grassroots community weekend consisting of informal presentations, talks and socializing.
Community-run Ephemerisle events continued annually on the Sacramento River delta in 2011 and 2012, and the 5th annual event is scheduled for July 10–14, 2013. Due to event growth, 2012 and 2013 featured multiple "islands" of houseboats, sailboats, platforms, and rafts tied together, each with different themes and cultures, embodying the seasteading concept of dynamic geography.
Blueseed is a company working on launching a ship near Silicon Valley which will serve as a visa-free startup community and entrepreneurial incubator. The shipstead will be offering living and office space, high-speed Internet connectivity, and regular ferry service to the mainland. The project aims to overcome the difficulty organizations face obtaining US work visas. It will use the easier B-1/B-2 visas to travel to the mainland, while work will be done on the ship. Blueseed founders Max Marty and Dario Mutabdzija met when both were employees of The Seasteading Institute.
Seasteading has been imagined numerous times in pop culture in recent years. For example, Waterworld was a major motion picture that featured seastead communities at various points throughout the film.
Also the Anime series, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet features a gigantic salvage vessel doubling as a live-in seastead for its residents and scavenger crews. It is located somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between the Himalayas and Peru.
Transhumania, the seasteading transhumanist city in the bestselling philosophical novel The Transhumanist Wager by Zoltan Istvan is another example of seasteading in popular culture and art.
- Artificial island
- Deep sea mining
- Floating airport
- Freedom Ship
- Intentional community
- Jacque Fresco
- Kiyonori Kikutake's marine city
- Marine energy
- Mobile offshore base
- Ocean thermal energy conversion
- Operation Atlantis
- Pneumatic stabilized platform
- Republic of Minerva
- Russian floating nuclear power station
- Principality of Sealand
- Seawater Greenhouse
- Underwater habitat
- Very large floating structure
- Wolf Hilbertz
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- Vincent Callebaut Lilypad
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- Floating city designs
- Evolo 2012
- Evolo 2011
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- Lee, Timothy (2011-11-29). "Startup hopes to hack the immigration system with a floating incubator". Ars Technica. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
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-  "Otaku Identify Location of Gargantia"
- The Seasteading Institute
- Seasteading - Frequently Asked Questions
- Blueseed - for-profit seasteading venture
- Las Portadas (underwriting, arbitration, and government interface)
- Roberts, Russ (October 13, 2008). "Patri Friedman on Seasteading". EconTalk. Library of Economics and Liberty.