Principality of Sealand

The Principality of Sealand is a micronation on the former British naval fortress of HM Fort Roughs, just under ten kilometres off the coast of Suffolk.

The sea fortress was proclaimed as a new and separate state on 2 September 1967 by Paddy Roy Bates, a former British Army major, following his immediate occupation of the platform abandoned by the Royal Navy. He no longer realised his original plans to operate a pirate radio station there outside the reach of British authorities. Nevertheless, until his death in 2012, with the help of relatives and family friends, he defended the platform both legally and by force of arms, calling on the international community to recognise Sealand as a legitimate and sovereign state under international law.

Despite a high profile, especially as a frequently chosen case study in discussions on international law, the recognition of Sealand as a state is internationally denied. There are court decisions from Germany and the United States according to which Sealand does not meet the requirements for a state and therefore does not exist as a subject of international law. Critics also point out that the platform lies in the middle of British territorial waters since these were extended to a twelve-mile zone in 1987.

Location and layout

Sealand lies in the North Sea, just under ten kilometres off the coast of Suffolk in the east of England.

Inside the two hollow concrete pillars of the former sea fortress, on which the steel platform rests, there are seven storeys each. These are divided into eight rooms per concrete column: from the bottom, first a former ammunition depot, above that a chapel and storage and accommodation rooms. The generator rooms are on the top floor. On the platform are bathrooms, a kitchen, further living quarters and, at the very top, a helicopter landing pad.

Two 40-mm Bofors guns originally located on the platform were removed by the Admiralty after the Second World War. The first of the two QF-3.7-inch AA guns was removed in 1966, the second as recently as 2002.

Bates population or family

Michael Bates (2015) The population of Sealand initially consisted of the Bates family and a few friends, but probably no more than ten people in total at any time. Today there is only one guard permanently on the platform as their representative.

The family returned to mainland England years ago, mainly for health reasons. In 1999, after transferring government responsibility to his son Michael, Paddy Roy Bates also moved to the family home in Leigh-on-Sea, a fishing village in the Southend-on-Sea district. The small terraced house is now occupied by Michael Bates, his wife and their three children. Paddy Roy Bates subsequently lived in Spain until his death on 9 October 2012.



The former sea fort is one of the so-called Maunsell Forts built by the British military in the mouth of the Thames during the Second World War to defend against sea and air attacks. It was built in dry dock on a buoyant pontoon in late 1941, towed out to sea and its base sunk as planned onto the Rough Sands sandbank on 11 February 1942. As HM Fort Roughs, also known as Roughs Tower, she was subsequently in the service of the Royal Navy. After the end of the war, however, these types of forts became less important and were abandoned one by one in the 1950s. In 1956, the crew of Roughs Tower left completely, leaving the station to its own devices.

In the 1960s, the operators of British pirate radio stations considered the abandoned forts an ideal location for their stations. In the assumption that they could circumvent the current broadcasting monopoly of the state-run BBC there, far away from the law enforcement authorities, the sea forts were sometimes even fiercely contested. Paddy Roy Bates was only able to set up his pirate radio station Radio Essex at Knock John Tower in 1965 after he had driven the operators of the rival station Radio City away from there. Soon, however, Knock John Tower proved not to be remote enough. Shortly before Christmas 1966, the station, which had shortly before renamed itself Britain's Better Music Station (BBMS), was switched off and Bates was charged with breaching the British Broadcasting Act.


On 2 September 1967, with the help of some followers, he occupied the Roughs Tower platform. This is much further offshore than Knock John Tower and was outside what were then British territorial waters - three nautical miles offshore - in international waters. Bates proclaimed it an independent principality of Sealand and appointed himself and his wife Joan Bates née Collins, a former "Southend Carnival Queen" and model, as absolute rulers with the titles Prince Roy and Princess Joan of Sealand.

Previously, Jack Moore and his daughter held the station for Irish music manager Ronan O'Rahilly, who wanted to use Roughs Tower for his pirate radio station Radio Caroline. When he learned of Bates' takeover, O'Rahilly immediately sent a few men to recapture the station. Their boat, however, was driven off by Bates and his men with petrol bombs and allegedly also several rifle shots.

In Britain, however, the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act had already come into force on 14 August 1967. This made it an offence to broadcast unlicensed radio transmissions from ships, aircraft or naval bases, even from outside territorial waters. Most pirate radio stations ceased broadcasting as a result. Almost simultaneously, the state-owned BBC launched its own pop channel, BBC Radio 1, and expanded its programming considerably in the early 1970s by founding numerous local stations. Roy Bates thus lost interest and refrained from setting up the planned pirate station.

From 1967 to 1968, the Royal Navy made several attempts to get rid of the occupants of Roughs Tower. Here, too, the self-proclaimed prince is said to have fired several shots in the direction of the landing craft. The military then called off the operation. Apparently, they did not want to take the risk of soldiers being killed, especially in view of the public image. Instead, charges were brought against Roy Bates in an English court for the shooting. However, in a 1968 ruling, the local court in Chelmsford declared itself without jurisdiction because the incident had occurred in international waters, i.e. outside of British territory.

Over the next 15 years, the British authorities repeatedly demanded that the occupants of Sealand pay social security contributions, broadcasting fees and other levies. Roy Bates, however, regularly refused to do so, citing the judicial decision that Sealand was not part of the United Kingdom.


In 1975, the German Alexander Gottfried Achenbach contacted Sealand. He had a plan, together with several Dutch friends, to turn the sea fortress into a luxury hotel with a casino. He soon won the confidence of Roy Bates and not only became a citizen of Sealand, but was also appointed prime minister and head of government for life. In September, Prince Roy then issued a constitution for the principality in which Sealand, among other things, also explicitly renounced restrictions on gambling.

When Roy and Joan Bates were in Salzburg for a few days in August 1978 to meet with business prospects, Achenbach, with the help of his Dutch friends, took command of the station and even briefly held Prince Roy's son Michael in his power. He declared the prince deposed because he had allegedly conducted negotiations in Salzburg on the sale of the state territory to a business consortium and had thus violated the constitution.

Bates then unceremoniously engaged several well-armed men, recaptured the fortress by helicopter and imprisoned the coup plotters as prisoners of war at Roughs Tower. As a result, Germany and the Netherlands intervened with the British government. It was to bring about the immediate release of the prisoners. However, the British government refused to support them, saying that it had no jurisdiction in international waters and referred to the 1968 court decision.

The prince quickly released the Dutch prisoners of war, referring to the Geneva Conventions. However, the leader Alexander Achenbach and the German lawyer Gernot Pütz both had Sealand passports. Therefore, as citizens, they were found guilty of treason. Achenbach was to serve a life sentence at Roughs Tower. The German lawyer was ordered to pay DM 75,000. The Federal Republic of Germany knew of no other advice than to send a consular officer from the German Embassy in London to Sealand for negotiations. Roy Bates considered the establishment of diplomatic contact as a de facto recognition of Sealand by the Federal Republic and decided to show mercy. In view of the bloodless course of the revolt and the fact that they had been imprisoned for several weeks in the meantime, he finally allowed the two prisoners to return to Germany.

Achenbach continues to accuse the prince of breaking the constitution and has regarded him as a forcible occupier of Sealand since 1978. He therefore set up a government-in-exile in the Federal Republic and appointed the Dutchman Adrien Oomen as syndic as the new head of state.


Shortly after the founding of Sealand, Sunk Head, another sea fortress in what were then international waters, was demolished by the British military. The remaining platforms were all within the then three-mile zone.

At the Third International Conference on the Law of the Sea (1973-1982), legal state formations based on Sealand's example were ruled out for the future. The nearest neighbouring state must assume responsibility for artificial constructions in the sea. According to the newly adopted convention, moreover, in future all constructions that are no longer needed must be removed immediately after they have been put out of use.

In October 1987, Great Britain extended its territorial waters to a twelve-mile zone. Since then, the Roughs Tower platform has again been within British territorial waters. However, Sealand has also laid claim to a twelve-mile zone and allegedly defended it in 1990 by firing warning shots at the British auxiliary vessel RMAS Golden Eye when it came too close to the platform.

Fire and renovation

Around noon on 23 June 2006, a fire broke out on Sealand. The cause was an electrical fault in the generator room. However, British firefighters alerted by a fisherman brought the fire under control by shortly after 3 pm. There was only one watchman on the station, who could be transferred directly from the platform to Ipswich to hospital by a Royal Air Force helicopter. Apart from the guard's only minor smoke inhalation, the fire mainly caused considerable damage to property. In addition to the burnt-out areas, especially the generator room, almost the entire furnishings of the superstructure and the north tower were damaged by smoke or the fire water that had penetrated.

The very next day, the Bates family announced that repair work would begin soon and started a fundraising campaign on the Sealand website. According to initial estimates, the costs should amount to about one million dollars. After clean-up work by the residents of the platform, the Sealand government awarded the English construction company Church and East Ltd. the contract to rebuild their land. Accompanied by a BBC film crew, repairs began as early as 29 June and were completed in November 2006.

Church and East then set up shop on the station for a longer period of time. After the fire damage was repaired, the station was extensively renovated and modernised. A system of 3 kW wind generators was installed to supply Sealand with electricity from wind energy as far as possible.[6] The progress made was recorded by regular reports and photos on a specially set up website of the construction company on the internet.[7] Since 2008, there is no longer any reference to activities of Church and East. The websites have been deleted.


Visit our media section for a complete overview.


Floating Architecture
Floating Cities
Floating City
Ocean Architecture
Ocean Cities
Ocean City


DeepDove: Archinism Network (2021-09-21). Ocean Cities | Principality of Sealand. Retrieved , from




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