What is Seasteading?

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  • Written By: Michael Anissimov
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 January 2020
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Seasteading is a concept that has frequently been proposed, and on a few occasions attempted, but not pursued seriously until very recently (2008). Seasteading is the concept of homesteading on the high seas, where the only laws that apply are those by home nations which continue to apply to citizens out of the country (not many). Seasteading is favored by libertarians, who seek a country with minimal government, and others seeking to pioneer new territory and create new nations. Since oceans cover 70% of the Earth's surface, some have suggested it prudent to attempt to colonize some of that area before attempting colonies on the Moon or Mars.


There are at least two examples of seasteading which have been attempted. The most famous is Sealand, a small ocean platform located off the coast of Suffolk in England. Sealand was constructed by the United Kingdom's government in WWII and abandoned in 1956. In the 1960s the island was occupied by pirate broadcasters, and progressively changed hands in a series of small "wars" held by individuals competing for the tiny platform. A 1968 court decision found that the UK did not have jurisdiction over the platform because it was further than 3 miles from the coast, and this continued to be used as the legal basis that Sealand was an independent state. Despite claims to the contrary, numerous incidents have shown that the UK treats Sealand as an independent state, and a few dozen people live there today, with over 300 official passports issued.

The second attempt at seasteading was the Republic of Minerva, created by Las Vegas libertarian millionaire Michael Oliver in 1972 when he imported sand from Australia to lift a submarine sand bar to above sea level in the South Pacific, near the island of Tonga. Shortly after establishment, Tonga laid claim to the island, and sent troops to reinforce the claim. The Minervan flag was lowered, and the island was occupied by Tonga. Various groups have attempted to re-occupy the tiny sand bar over the years, none successful.

The newest and most promising attempt at seasteading is currently being pursued by the Seasteading Institute in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Seasteading Institute is headed by Patri Friedman, grandson of influential economist Milton Friedman, and was launched with a pledge of $500,000 US Dollars in funding from Paypal co-founder and venture capitalist Peter Thiel. The Seasteading Institute is seeking to create its first seastead in the San Francisco Bay, and hopes to develop the engineering know-how to create independent artificial islands on the high seas. Only time will tell if they are successful.


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