Seasteading is the concept of creating permanent dwellings at sea, called seasteads, outside the territory claimed by any government. The term is a combination of the words sea and homesteading. No one has yet created a structure on the high seas that has been recognized as a sovereign state. ___ “Seasteading” Wikipedia entry
The leading proponents of seasteading include the Seasteading Institute and Blue Frontiers. The two organisations are said to be cooperating to build a special ocean zone for seasteading within French Polynesia. Many technical issues important to the construction of large seasteads (such as pictured above) are addressed in this document.
Cutting Back to Basics
The seasteading organisations have made grand plans for building “independent city-state” seasteads of various styles and scales. But large floating seasteads are an unproven concept, if you do not count cruise ships and other super-sized ships such as aircraft carriers.
A more evolutionary, bare-bones approach to seasteading might stand a better chance of succeeding in the near term. Modest successes can be leveraged to more ambitious projects bit by bit, as difficult challenges are confronted and overcome one by one.
Just as in the human habitation and exploitation of space, with ocean ventures an approach of “pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps” and paying as you go, seems wiser than betting it all on one throw in a grand “hail Mary” toss.
The ramshackle sea outpost featured in the movie “Waterworld” should give an entrepreneur of modest means some inspiration for creating a small beginning in seasteading, that can be built into something more grand over the longer term.
Overlooking the fact that the “Waterworld” design would break up in the first large storm to come along, consider that this floating city was in reality a floating “Trading Post,” where business was done and deals were made.
Consider all the yachts anchored in harbors around the world, each inhabited by cruisers and live-aboards. A mid-ocean harbor that offered safe anchorage, fuel, advanced communications, and vital supplies would probably find itself in demand — once word got around in the global yachting community.
It Does Not Have to Be Fancy or Luxurious
When the seas come up, a crewman gets hurt, or a yacht suffers damages in a cruise, “any port in a storm” can become a ready watchword. A floating outpost needn’t be stylish — but it must provide what cruisers need.
Such an ocean outpost would require a reliable breakwater to blunt the force of the waves and provide a safe anchorage. It would also need fuel and other vital supplies, a capable mechanic and sail repair, and basic medical supplies and a qualified mid-level medical provider.
If You Build It They Will Come
Building a large modern seastead with full-spectrum infrastructure is riskier than merely building a floating anchorage and outpost. The risks for the seastead venture are not well-defined, nor is the actual experience of living on a seastead city-state well understood. The closest existing arrangement is the condo-cruise ship, where residents buy their cabins like condominiums are bought. Seasteads are something new and untried.
Isolated seaport outposts are not uncommon, and the costs of the various businesses in such ventures can be computed — although in the beginning the customer base and cash flow will be thin. Expenses would need to be pared down to the bone at first.
There is a significant difference in up-front costs between building a sparse floating breakwater lagoon for yachts and floating businesses, and building the breakwater in addition to an elaborate seastead with expensive infrastructure.
The floating breakwater and sheltered anchorage is the irreducible foundation for building a mid-ocean commercial outpost. Once the mid-ocean sheltered harbor is secure, everything else can be added in a scaled and modular fashion as cash flow allows.
Experimental Ventures Do Not Readily Attract Credit
The idea is not entirely new. Reinforced concrete caissons were used by the Allies to create artificial harbors and piers on the coast of France, following D-Day. But floating breakwaters built to handle the waves of the open sea are a different matter.
Computer modeling is relatively cheap these days, and could be used to design reinforced concrete caissons better shaped and constructed for deflecting the force of mid-ocean waves over an extended time frame. An “artificial shore” long incline breakwater placed in front of a vertical “sea wall” style breakwater would in combination be more effective and have a longer lifetime than either design by itself. If necessary, a submerged “flat plate” style breakwater could be added at the head of the ensemble. Each stage of such an ensemble breakwater would have its uses, although expenses quickly mount the more elaborate the final construction.
Every bit of material will involve costs, as will design time and transportation from assembly site to the final mid-ocean destination. The venture would likely have to be crowd-funded in the early stages, as proofs of concept are reached, one by one.
The main advantage of such a bare-bones approach to seasteading is that the more modest venture reaches a stage of positive cash flow much earlier than when trying to build a large elaborate project all at one time.
It is likely that a floating anchorage and outpost would require a national registration and flag, similar to a ship — or a seastead. Expect to pay legal fees on top of registration and insurance fees. Make a very careful business plan, and avoid undercapitalisation.