Seasteading, a portmanteau of sea and homesteading, is the concept of creating sites of permanent housing and living space on the sea, called seasteads, outside the territories claimed by the governments of any nation.

Origin of the term

At least two people have independently coined the term: Ken Neumeyer in his book "Sailing the Farm" (1981) and Wayne Gramlich in his article "Seasteading - Homesteading on the High Seas" (1998). In German, the synonymous term "Seenahme" occasionally appears, which was created in reference to land grabbing.


Outside the exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles (370 km) that countries can claim under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the high seas are not subject to any laws other than those of the state whose flag a ship flies. Examples of organisations that make use of this possibility are Women on Waves, which provides abortion to women, in whose countries abortions are subject to stricter rules than in the Netherlands, and Radio Veronica, a pirate radio station in the North Sea that targeted the Netherlands in the 1960s. Like these organisations, a Seastead could take advantage of loose legal and administrative rules that exist outside the sovereignty of nations, and are under extensive self-government.

Atlantis Rising: Why Floating Cities are the Next Frontier (Joe Quirk).

The Seasteading Institute

The Seasteading Institute was founded on 15 April 2008 by Wayne Gramlich and Patri Friedman in Sunnyvale, California, with the aim of facilitating the establishment of autonomous, mobile communities on floating platforms in international waters. Gramlich's 1998 article "SeaSteading - Homesteading on the High Seas" explained affordable settlement and attracted Friedman's attention with his proposal for a small project. The two began working together and published their first joint plan on the internet in 2001. It covers every conceivable aspect of seasteading, from waste disposal to flagging out.

SeaSteading - Building on the Platform of the Oceans: Patri Friedman at TEDxSF.

Authors Julian Dörr and Olaf Kowalski see this phenomenon of artificial islands as a distinctly explicit vision of "Californian liberalism", a particular manifestation of Silicon Valley libertarian ideology that ostensibly aims to seek solutions to poverty, hunger and waste through less regulation and policy: "For it is precisely the thinkers and companies based in this valley of the San Francisco Bay Area, such as Google, Apple or Facebook, that combine a philanthropic approach to world improvement and a specific conception of order in society with a belief in the emancipatory power of technology."

The project became widely known in 2008 after it came to the attention of Paypal founder Peter Thiel, who invested $500,000 in the project and campaigned for its realisation, most recently in his essay The Education of a Libertarian, published by Cato Unbound.

"(...) Unlike the world of politics, in the world of technology the choices of individuals may still be paramount. The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism. For this reason, all of us must wish Patri Friedman the very best in his extraordinary experiment."

  • Peter Thiel, 2009 "(...) Unlike in the world of politics, in the world of technology the decisions of individuals can still be of primary importance. The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person to build or spread the wheels of freedom that make the world safe for capitalism. For this reason, we must all wish Patri Friedman the best on his extraordinary experiment."

The Seasteading Institute has therefore received widespread media attention, from sources such as CNN and Wired Magazine.

"If seasteading becomes a viable alternative, all you have to do to switch from one government to another is sail to the other and you don't even have to leave home to do it."

  • Friedman, Seasteading Annual Conference 2012: Since 2011, the Seasteading Institute has had an ambassador programme, which aims to spread the idea further around the world through local, vetted ambassadors. The Seasteading Institute held its first annual conference in Burlingame, California on 10 October 2008. 45 people from 9 countries attended. A 2nd Seasteading Conference was held in San Francisco from 28 to 30 September 2009. There was another conference, mainly discussing the economic opportunities of seasteading, in San Francisco from 31 May to 2 June 2012.
The Swimming City by András Gyõrfi.
The Swimming City by András Gyõrfi.

Seasteading Designs

The Seasteading Institute's "ClubStead" design.

Most of the proposed Seasteads are modified cruise ships. Other proposed structures are converted oil rigs, decommissioned anti-aircraft platforms, movable floating islands and custom-made artificial islands. The Seasteading Institute is working on a new approach that envisages communities floating above the sea on Spar buoys, similar to oil platforms. The project would start small, using proven technology as much as possible, and then try to find viable and sustainable ways to run a Seastead. Innovations that make it possible to live permanently at sea would have to be developed. The development of the cruise ship industry suggests that this is possible.

The Seasteading Institute's floating cities are designed for unregulated innovation.

One proposed design for a bespoke seastead is a floating dumbbell in which the living area is high above sea level, minimising the impact of the waves. In the last few years, research has been documented in an online book about ocean life.

The Seasteading Institute focuses on three areas:

  1. Community building;
  2. Research;
  3. Support for the construction of the first Seasteads;

The Seasteading Institute itself does not plan to build its own Seastead, as it sees itself as a non-profit organisation unsuited to the business of building and operating Seasteads. This task should fall to entrepreneurs and companies.

In January 2009, the Seasteading Institute patented a design for a Seastead, called ClubStead. It would be the size of a residential neighbourhood and provide living space for 200 people. The design was produced by the consultancy Marine Innovation & Technology. ClubStead is the first major development of the Seasteading movement in design, from extensive analysis to simulation.


Ephemerisle is an arts and culture festival on the water. It has been held at Mandeville Tip County Park in the San Joaquin River Delta since October 2009. The first event drew about 150 visitors. One of the founders of the Burning Man festival was a co-organiser. The goal of the Ephemerisle Festival is to create a community of temporary individuals living on the water who meet year after year for increasingly longer periods of time and form a condensation nucleus for a seasteading culture and community.

In 2010, there was no official Epehemerisle Festival, as the previous year's organiser did not want to operate without insurance again, but balked at the very high insurance premiums. Therefore, the participants organised the festival on their own under the name Non-Ephemerisle. From 2011 onwards, the event, which continued to be run under its own responsibility, was again allowed to bear its original name.

Sink or Swim Business Plan Contest The Sink or Swim Contest, was a competition held in 2011, for the best seasteading-based business concept.

  • 1st prize: Delishus Fishes, a concept for deep sea fish farms.
  • 2nd prize: Boundless Talent Consulting Services - A concept for a visa-free office and residential seastead for non-US professionals seeking contact with the American market.

The Poseidon Award

The Poseidon Award is a prize for establishing the first independent Seastead and the seeds for the world's first Ocean City. It is a milestone for the Seasteading movement.

Part of the Poseidon Award is the presentation of the Poseidon Monument, a statue, as a tribute to the first Seasteading pioneers. This will have the names of the Seasteading Argonauts engraved on it, major donors who helped make Seasteading a reality with their donation.

The Poseidon Award will be presented to the first Seasteading that:

  • has at least 50 permanent residents,
  • is financially self-sufficient,
  • offers land on the open market,
  • enjoys de facto political independence.

The goal was to have the Poseidon Award by 2015.

Seasteading Projects

Blueseed Venture

The most advanced project to date is the Blueseed Venture. The founders originally planned to operate a converted ship as a seastead off the coast of California in the course of 2012, designed as a residential, office and business centre for non-American entrepreneurs or professionals who are still waiting for visa clearances from the American authorities and have to stay outside American waters until then. However, the project is still waiting for full funding. The Blueseed managers had envisaged autumn to winter 2014 as the start date.

Principality of Sealand

No one has yet succeeded in founding a state on the high seas that is recognised as a sovereign nation. The closest thing to this goal is the Principality of Sealand, a controversial micronation on a discarded anti-aircraft platform off the Thames Estuary near Suffolk, England. A similar project was the micronation of New Atlantis on one half of a 30 m² raft some 15 kilometres off Jamaica. Founded on 4 July 1964 by Leicester Hemingway, it suffered the same fate as its mythical model two years later; it sank in a storm.

Seasteading in Fiction

Jules Verne's Propeller Island Standard Island

In his novel The Propeller Island, Jules Verne describes an artificial floating island Standard Island and the town of Milliard City on it. It is oval-shaped, 5×7 kilometres in size and divided into a northern and southern district.

Die Gelehrtenrepublik

Also divided, but into an American and a Soviet district, is the International Republic of Artists and Scientists (IRAS) in the novel Die Gelehrtenrepublik by Arno Schmidt. It is an artificial floating island in the Pacific Ocean. On it, scientific and artistic achievements are supposed to be safe from future world wars. The design of IRAS was taken from Jule Verne's Propeller Island, which is also explicitly mentioned in the novel.


Sealand is the subject of the novels Polyplay by Marcus Hammerschmitt and Der Aurora-Effekt by Rainer Wolf.


The television series SeaQuest DSV and SeaQuest 2032 are set in a future where seasteading is common.


The computer games BioShock and BioShock 2 are set in an underwater lake lake, which also appears briefly in the third part, BioShock Infinite.


Visit our media section for a complete overview.


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This page was last changed on 2021-09-21.