From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rendering of András Győrfi's "The Swimming City", a modular island

Seasteading is the concept of creating permanent dwellings at sea, called seasteads, in international waters outside the territory claimed by any government. No one has yet created a structure on the high seas that has been recognized as a sovereign state. Proposed structures have included modified cruise ships, refitted oil platforms, and custom-built floating islands.[1]

Proponents say seasteads can "provide the means for rapid innovation in voluntary governance and reverse environmental damage to our oceans ... and foster entrepreneurship."[2] Some critics fear seasteads may function more as a refuge for the wealthy to avoid taxes or other obligations.[3]

While seasteading gives an impression of freedom from unwanted rules and regulations, the high seas are "some of the most tightly regulated places on Earth" despite appearing borderless and free; in particular the cruise ship industry is highly regulated.[4]

The term seasteading is a blend of sea and homesteading, and dates back to the 1960s.[5]


Many architects and firms have created designs for floating cities, including Vincent Callebaut,[6][7] Paolo Soleri[8] and companies such as Shimizu, Ocean Builders[9] and E. Kevin Schopfer.[10]

For a dozen years L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, and his executive leadership became a maritime-based community named the Sea Organization (Sea Org). Beginning in 1967 with a complement of four ships, the Sea Org spent most of its existence on the high seas, visiting ports around the world for refueling and resupply. In 1975 much of these operations were shifted to land-based locations.

Marshall Savage discussed building tethered artificial islands in his 1992 book The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps, with several color plates illustrating his ideas.

A 1998 essay by Wayne Gramlich attracted the attention of Patri Friedman.[11] The two began working together and posted their first collaborative book online in 2001.[12] Their book explored many aspects of seasteading from waste disposal to flags of convenience. This collaboration led to the creation of the non-profit The Seasteading Institute (TSI) in 2008.

As an intermediate step, the Seasteading Institute has promoted cooperation with an existing nation on prototype floating islands with legal semi-autonomy within the nation's protected territorial waters. On 13 January 2017, the Seasteading Institute signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with French Polynesia to create the first semi-autonomous "seazone" for a prototype,[13][14] but later that year political changes driven by the French Polynesia presidential election led to the indefinite postponement of the project.[15] French Polynesia formally backed out of the project and permanently cut ties with Seasteading on 14 March 2018.[16]

The first single-family seastead was launched near Phuket, Thailand by Ocean Builders in March 2019.[17][18] Two months later, the Thai Navy claimed the seastead was a threat to Thai sovereignty.[19] In 2019, Ocean Builders said it will be building again in Panama, with the support of government officials.[20] As of 2022, the project's status is uncertain.

In April 2019, the concept of floating cities as a way to cope with rising oceans was included in a presentation by the United Nations program UN-Habitat. As presented, they would be limited to sheltered waters.[21]

Specific proposals[edit]

The Seasteading Institute[edit]

Rendering of the Seasteading Institute's "ClubStead"

A nonprofit organization that has held several seasteading conferences and started The Floating City Project, which is proposed to locate a floating city within the territorial waters of an existing nation. Attempts to reach an agreement with French Polynesia ended in 2018.[22]

Jounieh Floating Island project (JFIP)[edit]

A proposal to build a "floating island" with a luxury hotel in Jounieh north of the Lebanese capital Beirut, was stalled as of 2015 because of concerns from local officials about environmental and regulatory matters.[23][24]


Architectural drawing of Blueseed "habitat units"

Blueseed was a company aiming to float a ship near Silicon Valley to serve as a visa-free startup community and entrepreneurial incubator. Blueseed founders Max Marty and Dario Mutabdzija met when both were employees of The Seasteading Institute. The project planned to offer living and office space, high-speed Internet connectivity, and regular ferry service to the mainland[25][26] but as of 2014 the project was "on hold",[27] and was later described as "failed" due to lack of investors and possible trouble with the Startup Visa Bill before the US Congress, which would make the concept obsolete.


A project which got as far as the purchase of a ship was MS Satoshi, purchased (as Pacific Dawn) in 2020 by Ocean Builders Central, to become a floating residence in the Gulf of Panama; however, after failing to obtain insurance for the proposed operation, the ship was resold in 2021 for cruise operations.[4]


Historical predecessors and inspirations for seasteading include:

Cruise ships[edit]

Cruise ships are a proven technology, and address most of the challenges of living at sea for extended periods of time. However, they're typically optimized for travel and short-term stay, not for permanent residence in a single location.


Spar platform[edit]

Platform designs based on spar buoys, similar to oil platforms.[32] In this design, the platforms rest on spars in the shape of floating dumbbells, with the living area high above sea level. Building on spars in this fashion reduces the influence of wave action on the structure.[33]


  • TSI Clubstead[34]
  • Evolo retrofitted oil platform [35]
  • SeaPod[36]

Modular island[edit]

There are numerous seastead designs based around interlocking modules made of reinforced concrete.[37] Reinforced concrete is used for floating docks, oil platforms, dams, and other marine structures.


  • The Floating City Project / Blue Frontiers.[38]
  • Evolo Oceanscraper.[39]
  • AT Design Office floating city concept.[40]
  • Freedom Haven[41]

Monolithic island[edit]

A single, monolithic structure that is not intended to be expanded or connected to other modules.



Critics believe that founding and building a government is difficult.[44] Also, seasteads would still be at risk of political interference from nation states.[45]

On a logistical level, without access to culture, travel, restaurants, shopping, and other amenities, seasteads could be too remote and too uncomfortable to be attractive to potential long-term residents.[45] Building seasteads to withstand the rigors of the open ocean may prove uneconomical.[44][45]

Seastead structures may blight ocean views, their industry or farming may deplete their environments, and their waste may pollute surrounding waters. Some critics believe that seasteads will exploit both residents and the nearby population.[44] Others fear that seasteads will mainly allow wealthy individuals to escape taxes,[3] or to harm mainstream society by ignoring other financial, environmental, and labor regulations.[3][44]

In popular culture[edit]

Seasteading has been imagined many times in novels, from Jules Verne's 1895 science-fiction book Propeller Island (L'Île à hélice) about an artificial island designed to travel the waters of the Pacific Ocean, to the 2003 novel The Scar, which featured a floating city named Armada. It has been a central concept in some movies, notably Waterworld (1995), and in TV series such as Stargate Atlantis, which had a complete floating city. It is a common setting in video games, forming the premise of the Bioshock series, Brink, and Call of Duty: Black Ops II; and in anime, such as Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet which takes place mainly on a traveling city made of an interconnected fleet of ocean ships.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mangu-Ward, Katherine (28 April 2008). "Homesteading on the High Seas: Floating Burning Man, "jurisdictional arbitrage," and other adventures in anarchism". Reason Magazine. Retrieved 28 February 2009.
  2. ^ Why Steastead?
  3. ^ a b c Wong, Julia Carrie (2 January 2017). "Seasteading: tech leaders' plans for floating city trouble French Polynesians". The Guardian.
  4. ^ a b Elmhirst, Sophie (7 September 2021). "The disastrous voyage of Satoshi, the world's first cryptocurrency cruise ship". The Guardian.
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary: seasteading
  6. ^ "Vincent Callebaut Architect Lilypad".
  7. ^ "LILYPAD feature".
  8. ^ Rose, Steve (25 August 2008). "The man who saw the future". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  9. ^ "Ocean Builders". Ocean Builders.
  10. ^ "Floating cities oasis for the future".
  11. ^ Fingleton, Eamonn (26 March 2010). "Seasteading: the great escape". Prospect Magazine. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  12. ^ Gramlich, Wayne; Friedman, Patri (2002). "Getting Serious About SeaSteading". Andrew House. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  13. ^ Carli, James (10 December 2016). "Oceantop Living in a Seastead – Realistic, Sustainable, and Coming Soon". Huffington Post. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  14. ^ "French Polynesia signs first floating city deal". BBC News. 17 January 2017. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  15. ^ "The Seasteading Institute Projects". 28 January 2020. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  16. ^ Robinson, Melia. "An island nation that told a libertarian 'seasteading' group it could build a floating city has pulled out of the deal". Business Insider. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  17. ^ "First Seastead in International Waters Now Occupied, Thanks to Bitcoin Wealth". 1 March 2019. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  18. ^ THE FIRST SEASTEADERS 4: Living the Life on YouTube
  19. ^ "Seasteading couple charged as Thai navy boards floating home". ABC News. 21 April 2019. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  20. ^ "Ocean builders is moving forward to a new location". Mailchi.
  21. ^ "Floating cities could ease global housing crunch, says UN". National Geographic. Archived from the original on 7 April 2019.
  22. ^ RNZ: "French Polynesia sinks floating island project" 3028
  23. ^ Middle East Eye: "Authorities block floating island"
  24. ^ Report about project on MTV Lebanon television (in Arabic)
  25. ^ Lee, Timothy (29 November 2011). "Startup hopes to hack the immigration system with a floating incubator". Ars Technica. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  26. ^ Donald, Brooke (13 December 2011). "Blueseed Startup Incubator Could Sail Past Immigration Law". Wired. Retrieved 28 June 2022.
  27. ^ "Startup Ducks Immigration Law With Googleplex of the Sea". 26 October 2015.
  28. ^ "Explorers in the Valley still charting new territory". The Irish Times. 19 September 2008.
  29. ^ "Live, Work and Play on a Residential Cruise Ship". PRWeb. Retrieved 13 October 2020.
  30. ^ Donald, Brooke (16 December 2011). "Blueseed Startup Sees Entrepreneur-Ship as Visa Solution for Silicon Valley". Huffington Post. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  31. ^ "World's first floating city back on course". NY Daily News. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  32. ^ McCullagh, Declan (2 February 2009). "Next Frontier: "Seasteading" The Oceans". CBS News. Retrieved 28 June 2022.
  33. ^ Gramlich, Wayne; Friedman, Patri; Houser, Andrew (2002–2004). "Seasteading". Archived from the original on 10 February 2009. Retrieved 28 February 2009.
  34. ^ "ClubStead". 2009. Retrieved 28 June 2022.
  35. ^ "Oil Platforms Transformed into Sustainable Seascrapers- eVolo – Architecture Magazine".
  36. ^ "Ocean Builders". Retrieved 28 June 2022.
  37. ^ "Apply Seasteading Concrete Shell Structures – The Seasteading Institute". The Seasteading Institute. Archived from the original on 10 July 2010.
  38. ^ "Floating City Project | The Seasteading Institute". 17 December 2015. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  39. ^ "Oceanscraper- eVolo – Architecture Magazine".
  40. ^ "Floating City concept by AT Design Office features underwater roads". Dezeen. 13 May 2014.
  41. ^
  42. ^ "Seascraper – Floating City – eVolo – Architecture Magazine".
  43. ^ Raj, Ajai (14 June 2014). "A SPACESHIP FOR THE SEA". Popular Science. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  44. ^ a b c d Denuccio, Kyle. "Silicon Valley Is Letting Go of Its Techie Island Fantasies". WIRED. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  45. ^ a b c "Cities on the Ocean". The Economist. 3 December 2011. Retrieved 6 December 2011.

Further reading[edit]