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The First Floating City “Seastead” with Substantial Autonomy by 2020?

By: Tony Escobar - @EscoTony - May 6, 2014, 3:01 pm

Español A market for residential seasteads exists, so says the Seasteading Institute in their newly published “Floating City Project” report (PDF). The 134-page publication — prepared between March 2013 and March 2014 and released on April 25 — is an initiative that seeks to establish the world’s first seastead within territorial waters of a host nation.

The authors, led by Randolph Hencken, set out to establish “the feasibility of developing a floating city before the end of the decade.” In addition to the presence of considerable market demand, they conclude that (1) a practical design can be built to match the market’s price point and (2) it is likely that the Seasteading Institute can reach a deal with a host nation.

A Market for Residential Seasteads

As part of the research, the Seasteading Institute released an ongoing survey in May 2013 to gauge customer demand and identify potential initiative pioneers. Utilizing the data collected from over 1,200 survey participants, the survey results are shaping the future of the Floating City Project’s first seastead.

The quantitative survey results show a market base with a young demographic: 58 percent between the ages of 18-29, and nearly 30 percent between ages of 18-23.

“While it’s unlikely that students will be early investors in the development of a floating city, it is heartening to know that the vision of the Floating City Project resonates with college-aged people,” the authors state.

Approximately 55 percent of survey respondents were from the United States and the remainder from over 67 countries. Most preferred a seastead location in the Caribbean or Mediterranean seas, followed by Australia or New Zealand — “possibly owing to these countries’ increasing rankings on major indexes of economic freedom.”

Practical Design Built for the Market

An Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign raised a total of US$27,000 to fund a partnership between the Seasteading Institute and DeltaSync, a Dutch aquatic urban design firm hired to engineer the project’s architectural seastead design. DeltaSync completed their preliminary concept in December of 2013, and after a thorough review (in comparison to a semi-submersible alternative) DeltaSync’s researchers determined that the design was best adapted for early seasteads within protected waters.

The six most important design objectives analyzed in DeltaSync’s Final Concept Report are portability, dynamic geography, growth, seakeeping, safety, and water experience.

The concept design is based on 11 modules, with locations for apartments, terraced housing, office space, and even hotels. Between 225 and 300 full-time residents would live and work on board with an additional 50 hotel beds for a total projected cost of about $167 million.

Given that the plan is to set up shop within a host nation’s territorial waters, DeltaSync’s floating platform dimensions are smaller than a concept designed for the high seas.

“The ideal situation would be that platforms can exist without a breakwater,” states their findings. “When moved to the high seas, the platforms should be able to survive, but be less attractive to live on from a comfort point of view.”

Seastead platform factors

One of the main goals was to develop a more feasible alternative to large-scale platforms, because they are likely to be the most expensive part of the project, costing roughly $15 million each. The report suggests the ideal size platform is 50-by-50 meters, which also ensures portability with tugboats.

“It is not structurally feasible to try and deal with … extremely large platforms,” they write. However, the report acknowledges that a more detailed study should be conducted regarding how interconnected platforms behave under different wave conditions, since the ideal 50-by-50 meter size is not yet conclusive.

Finding a Host Nation That Provides Political Autonomy

The United Nations recognizes 193 countries in the world, and approximately 150 of them have territorial waters. To narrow down the list of candidate host nations, each must meet two broad qualities: (1) located in a desirable and strategic location from the perspective of intended residents; (2) the ability of the government and relevant authorities to grant substantial autonomy for the residents and businesses in exchange for the economic, environmental, and societal benefits to the host nation.

“The ideal country would be stable, non-corrupt, small, and relatively poor by first world standards,” states the report. While no country was found as ideal, the report yielded a consistent pattern that allowed for the selection of several Latin American countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and Suriname, among a few other countries in other parts of the world.

At the time of the publishing of this report we are pursuing diplomacy, and have made contact with influential people in government and business in several of the nations listed above. However, due to ongoing diplomatic efforts, we are not at liberty to publicly comment on our engagements.

The seasteading movement has come a long way from the Principality of Sealand and similar isolated attempts. This report and the many names associated with it suggest an outlook is as positive as ever.

Tony Escobar Tony Escobar

Escobar is digital media director for the PanAm Post and owner of the digital media company AMTG Solutions. He’s also a decorated combat infantry veteran of the US Army. Follow him on Twitter @EscoTony.