Principality of Sealand
Principality of Sealand
Motto: E Mare Libertas
From the sea, Freedom
Anthem: "E Mare Libertas"[a]
Sealand from above
|2 September 1967|
|0.004 km2 (0.0015 sq mi) (all livable space)|
|Purported currency||Coins and postage stamps of the Sealand dollar|
(pegged to the USD)
The Principality of Sealand, commonly known as Sealand (//), is a micronation that claims Roughs Tower, an offshore platform in the North Sea approximately 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) off the coast of Suffolk, as its territory. Roughs Tower is a disused Maunsell Sea Fort, originally called HM Fort Roughs, built as an anti-aircraft gun platform by the British during World War II.
Since 1967, the decommissioned HM Fort Roughs has been occupied by family and associates of Paddy Roy Bates, who claim that it is an independent sovereign state. Bates seized it from a group of pirate radio broadcasters in 1967 with the intention of setting up his own station at the site. He attempted to establish Sealand as a nation state in 1975 with the writing of a national constitution and establishment of other national symbols.
While it has been described as the world's smallest country, Sealand is not officially recognised by any established sovereign state in spite of Sealand's government's claim that it has been de facto recognised by the United Kingdom and Germany. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, in force since 1994, states: "Artificial islands, installations and structures do not possess the status of islands. They have no territorial sea of their own, and their presence does not affect the delimitation of the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf". Since 1987, Sealand has lain within the United Kingdom's territorial waters.
Bates moved to the mainland when he became elderly, naming his son, Michael, as regent. Bates died in October 2012 at the age of 91. Michael lives in Suffolk, where he and his sons run a family fishing business called Fruits of the Sea.
HM Fort Roughs
In 1943, during World War II, HM Fort Roughs (sometimes called Roughs Tower) was constructed by the United Kingdom as one of the Maunsell Forts, primarily to defend the vital shipping lanes in nearby estuaries against Nazi Kriegsmarine mine-laying aircraft. It consisted of a floating pontoon base with a superstructure of two hollow towers joined by a deck upon which other structures could be added. The fort was towed to a position above the Rough Sands sandbar, where its base was deliberately flooded to sink it on its final resting place. This is approximately 7 nautical miles (13 km) from the coast of Suffolk, outside the then 3 nmi (6 km) claim of the United Kingdom and, therefore, in international waters. The facility was occupied by 150–300 Royal Navy personnel throughout World War II; the last full-time personnel left in 1956.
Occupation and establishment
Roughs Tower was occupied in February and August 1965 by Jack Moore and his daughter Jane, squatting on behalf of the pirate station Wonderful Radio London.
On 2 September 1967, the fort was occupied by Major Paddy Roy Bates, a British subject and pirate radio broadcaster, who ejected a competing group of pirate broadcasters. Bates intended to broadcast his pirate radio station – called Radio Essex – from the platform. Despite having the necessary equipment, he never began broadcasting. Bates declared the independence of Roughs Tower and deemed it the Principality of Sealand.
In 1968, British workmen entered what Bates claimed to be his territorial waters to service a navigational buoy near the platform. Michael Bates (son of Paddy Roy Bates) tried to scare the workmen off by firing warning shots from the former fort. As Bates was a British subject at the time, he was summoned to court in England on firearms charges following the incident. But as the court ruled that the platform (which Bates was now calling "Sealand") was outside British territorial limits, being beyond the then 3-nautical-mile (6 km) limit of the country's waters, the case could not proceed.
Attack in 1978 and the Sealand Rebel Government
In August 1978, Alexander Achenbach, who describes himself as the Prime Minister of Sealand, hired several German and Dutch mercenaries to lead an attack on Sealand while Bates and his wife were in England. Achenbach had disagreed with Bates over plans to turn Sealand into a luxury hotel and casino with fellow German and Dutch businessmen. They stormed the platform with speedboats, Jet Skis and helicopters, and took Bates's son Michael hostage. Michael was able to retake Sealand and capture Achenbach and the mercenaries using weapons stashed on the platform. Achenbach, a German lawyer who held a Sealand passport, was charged with treason against Sealand and was held unless he paid DM 75,000 (more than US$35,000 or £23,000). Germany then sent a diplomat from its London embassy to Sealand to negotiate for Achenbach's release. Roy Bates relented after several weeks of negotiations and subsequently claimed that the diplomat's visit constituted de facto recognition of Sealand by Germany.
In 1997, the Bates family revoked all Sealand passports, including those that they themselves had issued over the previous 22 years. There were thought to have been about 150,000 in circulation. This was due to the realization that an international money laundering ring had appeared, using the sale of fake Sealand passports to finance drug trafficking and money laundering from Russia and Iraq. The ringleaders of the operation, based in Madrid but with ties to various groups in Germany, including the rebel Sealand Government in exile established by Achenbach after the attempted 1978 coup, had used fake Sealandic diplomatic immunity and license plates. They were even reported to have sold 4,000 fake Sealandic passports to Hong Kong citizens for an estimated $1,000 each.
On the afternoon of 23 June 2006, the top platform of the Roughs Tower caught fire due to an electrical fault. A Royal Air Force rescue helicopter transferred one person to Ipswich hospital, directly from the tower. The Harwich lifeboat stood by the Roughs Tower until a local fire tug extinguished the fire. All damage was repaired by November 2006.
In January 2007, The Pirate Bay attempted to purchase Sealand after harsher copyright measures in Sweden forced them to look for a base of operations elsewhere. Between 2007 and 2010, Sealand was offered for sale through the Spanish estate company InmoNaranja, at an asking price of €750 million (£600 million, US$906 million).
Death of founder
Roy Bates died at the age of 91 on 9 October 2012; he had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for several years. He was succeeded by his son Michael. Joan Bates died in an Essex nursing home at the age of 86 on 10 March 2016.
Michael Bates has stated that in late 2016 Sealand was receiving hundreds of applications for passports every day.
The claim that Sealand is an independent sovereign state is based on an interpretation of a 1968 decision of an English court, in which it was held that Roughs Tower was in international waters and thus outside the jurisdiction of the domestic courts.
The constitutive theory is the standard nineteenth-century model of statehood. The constitutive theory posits that a state exists exclusively via recognition by other states. The theory splits on whether this recognition requires diplomatic recognition or merely recognition of existence. No other state grants Sealand official recognition, but Bates argued that negotiations carried out by Germany following a brief hostage incident constituted recognition of existence and, since the German government reportedly sent an ambassador to the tower, diplomatic recognition.
The declaratory theory was developed in the twentieth century to address shortcomings of the constitutive theory. In the declaratory theory of statehood, an entity becomes a state as soon as it meets the minimal criteria for statehood. Therefore, recognition by other states is purely declaratory.
In 1987, the UK extended its territorial waters from 3 to 12 nautical miles (6 to 22 km). Sealand now sits inside British waters. The United Kingdom is one of 165 parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (in force since 1994), which states in Part V, Article 60, that: 'Artificial islands, installations and structures do not possess the status of islands. They have no territorial sea of their own, and their presence does not affect the delimitation of the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf'. In the opinion of law academic John Gibson, there is little chance that Sealand would be recognised as a nation because it is a man-made structure.
In a 1990 court case (and a 1991 appeal) in the United States regarding registering ships in Sealand as a flag of convenience, the court ruled against allowing Sealand flagged vessels; the case was never contested by Bates.
|Prince of Sealand|
since 9 October 2012
|Formation||2 September 1967|
Irrespective of its legal status, Sealand is managed by the Bates family as if it were a recognised sovereign entity and they are its hereditary royal rulers. Roy Bates styled himself as "Prince Roy" and his wife "Princess Joan". Their son is known as "His Royal Highness Prince Michael" and has been referred to as the "Prince regent" by the Bates family since 1999. In this role, he apparently serves as Sealand's acting "Head of State" and also its "Head of Government".
At a micronations conference hosted by the University of Sunderland in 2004, Sealand was represented by Michael Bates's son James. The facility is now occupied by one or more caretakers representing Michael Bates, who himself resides in Essex, England.
Sealand's constitution was instituted in 1974. It consists of a preamble and seven articles. The preamble asserts Sealand's independence, while the articles variously deal with Sealand's status as a constitutional monarchy, the empowerment of government bureaux, the role of an appointed, advisory senate, the functions of an appointed, advisory legal tribunal, a proscription against the bearing of arms except by members of a designated "Sealand Guard", the exclusive right of the sovereign to formulate foreign policy and alter the constitution, and the hereditary patrilinear succession of the monarchy.
Sealand's legal system is claimed to follow British common law, and statutes take the form of decrees enacted by the sovereign. Sealand has issued "fantasy passports" (as termed by the Council of the European Union), which are not valid for international travel, and holds the Guinness World Record for "the smallest area to lay claim to nation status". Sealand's motto is E Mare Libertas (From the Sea, Freedom). It appears on Sealandic items – such as stamps, passports and coins – and is the title of the Sealandic anthem. The anthem was composed by Londoner Basil Simonenko; being an instrumental anthem, it does not have lyrics. In 2005, the anthem was recorded by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra and released on their CD National Anthems of the World, Vol. 7: Qatar – Syria.
Sealand has been involved in several commercial operations, including the issuing of coins and postage stamps and the establishment of an offshore Internet hosting facility, or 'data haven'. Sealand also publishes an online newspaper, Sealand News. In addition, a number of amateur athletes 'represent' Sealand in sporting events, including unconventional events like the World Egg Throwing Championship, which the Sealand team won in 2008.
Coins and stamps
Several dozen different Sealand coins have been minted since 1972. In the early 1990s, Achenbach's German group also produced a coin, featuring a likeness of 'Prime Minister Seiger'. Sealand's coins and postage stamps are denominated in 'Sealand dollars', which it deems to be at parity with the US dollar. Sealand first issued postage stamps in 1969, and issues through 1977. No further stamps were produced until 2010. Sealand is not a member of the Universal Postal Union, therefore its inward address is a PO Box in the British borough of Ipswich. Once an item is mailed to Sealand's tourist and government office, it will then be taken to Sealand. Sealand only has one street address, The Row.
A Sealand mailing address looks like this:
Bureau of Internal Affairs
5, The Row
(c/o Sealand Post Bag, IP11 9SZ, UK)
This Felixstowe post code was terminated by the Royal Mail in December 2018.
Titles of nobility
Sealand also sells titles of individual nobility including Lord, Baron, Count, Duke and those titles' distaff equivalents. Following Roy Bates's 2012 death, Sealand also began publicly offering knighthoods and coats of arms.
In 1978, following the invasion, the Knights of the Sovereign Military Order of Sealand were formed by Prince Roy and Prince Michael to provide for the Principality's defence should it come under threat or attack. In 2012, following the death of Prince Roy, membership in the Order was opened to sale to the general public.
In 2000, worldwide publicity was created about Sealand following the establishment of a new entity called HavenCo, a data haven, which effectively took control of Roughs Tower itself. Ryan Lackey, Haven's co-founder and a key participant in the country, left HavenCo under acrimonious circumstances in 2002, citing disagreements with the Bates family over management of the company. The HavenCo website went offline in 2008.
Sealand is not recognised by any major international sporting body, and its population is insufficient to maintain a team composed entirely of Sealanders in any team sport. However, Sealand claims to have official national athletes, including non-Sealanders. These athletes take part in various sports, such as curling, mini-golf, football, fencing, ultimate, table football and athletics, although all its teams compete out of the country. The Sealand National Football Association is an associate member of the Nouvelle Fédération-Board, a football sanctioning body for non-recognised states and states not members of FIFA. It administers the Sealand national football team. In 2004 the national team played its first international game against Åland Islands national football team, drawing 2–2.
Sealand claims that its first official athlete was Darren Blackburn of Oakville, Ontario, Canada, who was appointed in 2003. Blackburn has represented Sealand at a number of local sporting events, including marathons and off-trail races. In 2004, mountaineer Slader Oviatt carried the Sealandic flag to the top of Muztagh Ata. Also in 2007, Michael Martelle represented the Principality of Sealand in the World Cup of Kung Fu, held in Quebec City, Canada; bearing the designation of Athleta Principalitas Bellatorius (Principal Martial Arts Athlete and Champion), Martelle won two silver medals, becoming the first-ever Sealand athlete to appear on a world championship podium.
In 2009, Sealand announced the revival of the Sealand Football Association and their intention to compete in a future Viva World Cup. Scottish author Neil Forsyth was appointed as President of the Association. Sealand played the second game in their history against Chagos Islands on 5 May 2012, losing 3–1. The team included actor Ralf Little and former Bolton Wanderers defender Simon Charlton.
In 2015, the runner Simon Messenger ran a half-marathon on Sealand as part of his "round the world in 80 runs" challenge.
In August 2018 competitive swimmer Richard Royal became the first person to swim the 12 km from Sealand to the mainland, finishing in 3 hrs 29 mins. Royal visited the platform before the swim, getting his passport stamped. He entered the water from the 'bosuns chair', signalling the start of the swim, and finished on Felixstowe beach. It was accredited as an inaugural and therefore current world and British record by the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) and the British Long Distance Swimming Association (BLDSA). Royal was subsequently awarded with a Sealand Knighthood by Prince Michael. The swim was the subject of a short documentary film entitled Escape from Sealand.
- By Basil Simonenko
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