Law and Policy

The explosive growth of economies like Hong Kong and Singapore has shown that people and capital are attracted to societies with good legal environments.Therefore, the goals of our law and politics research program are to define what makes for a good legal regime, and identify the obstacles to creating the kind of regime that will allow seasteads to thrive.The national and international laws that affect seasteads can be complex. Which laws apply depends on the citizenship of the seastead residents, the location of the seastead, the country under which the seastead is “flagged,” and the interpretation of international maritime treaties, to name a few of the complicating factors.

This complexity introduces a great deal of uncertainty into any attempt to seastead. Investors and entrepreneurs will want to know what conditions might lead existing governments to interfere with a seastead’s internal affairs. What legal considerations give rise to unique business opportunities? What laws and taxes apply to seastead residents?

To answer these questions, our law and politics research program investigates existing laws as they might apply to seasteads, internal governance strategies for seasteads themselves (constitutions, courts and police forces), and the legal opportunities and risks involved in operating a seastead.

Our current focus is on the resolving issues that are critical to the success of early seasteads, though we also address some longer term legal issues, such as how seasteads can achieve sovereignty.

Under what conditions will countries interfere with a seastead’s internal affairs?

What legal considerations give rise to unique business opportunities?

What laws and taxes apply to seastead residents?The Institute is interested in supporting commercial seasteading ventures by providing free or low-cost legal advice from one of our professional maritime attorneys, so long as the information discovered will be useful to other seasteaders and can be shared in the public sphere.

If you have a legitimate strategy for advancing your business plan and require legal assistance, please contact info@seasteading with the subject line “Legal Help Request.”Tom W. Bell

International maritime conventions regulate the conditions under which sovereigns issue flags to maritime vessels.  This document analyzes whether and to what degree the six most widely adopted such conventions apply to seasteads.  It finds that seasteads can remain outside the scope of most international maritime conventions if they stay fixed in place, remain below 24 meters long at the waterline, and do not enter foreign ports.  Seasteads win further exemptions if they stay in or close to sheltered waters and remain smaller than 12 meters long, 400 gross tonnage, and 15-person capacity.  Though voyaging or larger seasteads fall within the scope of additional conventions, they might qualify for exemptions from many of their requirements.[button t_color=”#ffffff” b_color=”#007ce1″ b_hover_color=”#d90000″ url=””]VIEW RESEARCH[/button]O. Shane Balloun

Revised for publication in the University of San Francisco Maritime Law Journal, this article adds to an older version (see below), which lay the foundation for the Institute’s subsequent legal research. The history of micronations and seastead-like entities is filled with dramatic events, from which we can learn how the next wave of seasteaders should confront the obstacles to political and social freedom. Both US admiralty and international maritime law inform Balloun’s analysis, and provide practical guidance for how seasteads can balance autonomy with respect for existing legal norms and conventions.

Citation: 24 U.S.F. Mar. L. J. 409 (2012)[button t_color=”#ffffff” b_color=”#007ce1″ b_hover_color=”#d90000″ url=””]VIEW RESEARCH[/button]Robert Mongole

Article III Section 2 of the United States Constitution grants broad powers for federal courts to hear maritime claims. This power has been used in the past to allow foreigners to bring suits in United States Courts for claims arising on the high seas and within the territorial waters of another nation. This paper examines whether contractual devices can be used to prevent lawsuits in American admiralty jurisdiction, and how they might be applied to protect seasteads from lawsuits in the United States. It also examines the court’s power of forum non conveniens, and how the factors used to analyze the “convenience of the forum” could weigh towards American courts retaining jurisdiction, at least in seasteads’ early days.[button t_color=”#ffffff” b_color=”#007ce1″ b_hover_color=”#d90000″ url=””]VIEW RESEARCH[/button]Seasteading: Competitive Governments on the Ocean [PDF]

Barriers to Entry and Institutional Evolution [PDF]

Patri Friedman and Brad Taylor

These economics working papers explain why seasteading is a powerful lever to improve government and thus make the world a better place. They introduce our dynamic theory of the industrial organization of government which combines the insights of public choice theory and a dynamic understanding of competition to explain how seasteading will lead to better governments by enabling experimentation and thus innovation. In addition to containing original ideas, these papers contain comprehensive reviews of previous related works. The Barriers to Entry paper contains a review of how the right to vote in the United States mainly expanded through the creation of new states, rather than through changes within existing states, demonstrating how new polities can bring greater equality.Sean Hickman

International and maritime law requires all ships to fly the flag of an existing nation. Most countries place strict regulations on individuals or companies that wish to fly their flag, but there are a number of countries that operate so-called open registries, offering ship owners from around the world the option to register their vessels under what are known as “flags of convenience” (FOCs). Flying the flag of an open registry country seems to be the best option for early seasteading ventures, because it offers the highest possible degree of autonomy and independence without placing seasteads outside of the law. This paper considers the merits of various open registry countries in terms of reputation, regulations, costs and requirements with the purposes of early seasteading ventures in mind, and offers case studies of the costs and benefits of six promising open registry countries.[button t_color=”#ffffff” b_color=”#007ce1″ b_hover_color=”#d90000″ url=””]VIEW RESEARCH[/button]Shanee Stopnitzky, James Hogan, George Petrie, Elie Amar, Dario Mutabdzija, Max Marty and Rafa Gutierrez

To determine the most promising locations for seastead communities, The Seasteading Institute has evaluated the entire ocean, based on a comprehensive set of criteria related to environmental, economic, legal and political considerations. Data sets for each criterion are presented in the form of color-coded heat maps depicting the desirability of possible locations for two different seastead scenarios: a small, ship-based seastead, and a large “Metropolistead,” or full-fledged city on the ocean. High resolution maps of the individual criteria, as well as aggregated maps, can be viewed here.[button t_color=”#ffffff” b_color=”#007ce1″ b_hover_color=”#d90000″ url=””]VIEW RESEARCH[/button]Brad Taylor

This paper lays out criteria for good governance, and examines historical forms of governance in light of those criteria. It also examines customary law, common interest developments, entrepreneurial communities and corporate governance, and applies the lessons learned to governance at sea.[button t_color=”#ffffff” b_color=”#007ce1″ b_hover_color=”#d90000″ url=””]VIEW RESEARCH[/button]Dario Mutabdzija and Max Borders

The primary objective of this paper is to discuss particular legal impediments to seasteading, ways to overcome those impediments and specific strategies for getting started on the sea.

Part 2 of 2 paper series, August 2011[button t_color=”#ffffff” b_color=”#007ce1″ b_hover_color=”#d90000″ url=””]VIEW RESEARCH[/button]Dario Mutabdzija and Max Borders

The primary objective of this paper is to assist with the formation of a legal strategy that will be useful to seasteaders around the world.

Part 1 of 2 paper series, July 2011

View Research[button t_color=”#ffffff” b_color=”#007ce1″ b_hover_color=”#d90000″ url=””]VIEW RESEARCH[/button] Chhay Lin Lim

This dissertation aims at providing a philosophical investigation of the concept of seasteading. My investigation revolves around the following research question: “given that governments are resistant to structural changes of governance, how can mankind discover better forms of social organization?”

I argue that seasteading can play an important role in creating an experimentation space where different social organizations can be tested so that mankind can discover governments that are best for human flourishing.[button t_color=”#ffffff” b_color=”#007ce1″ b_hover_color=”#d90000″ url=”″]VIEW RESEARCH[/button]O. Shane Balloun

This paper discusses U.S. admiralty law, and the nature and extent of its likely jurisdiction over seasteads.

View Research[button t_color=”#ffffff” b_color=”#007ce1″ b_hover_color=”#d90000″ url=””]VIEW RESEARCH[/button]The following research reports document some of the current law likely to govern seasteads:

Proposed Inhabited Artificial Islands in International Waters: International Law Analysis in Regards to Resource Use, Law of the Sea and Norms of Self-Determination and State Recognition (Rene Kardol) – A great legal survey of the possibilities for artificial ocean structures to gain autonomy and recognition.

The Legal Regime of Islands in the South China Sea [PDF] (Marius Gjetnes) – A thorough discussion of international maritime law as it relates to islands, including some discussion of stilt villages and artificial islands.

Collection of documents [ZIP] containing copies of legislation related to artificial islands, oil platforms, military platforms, and seasteading related international law.We are seeking highly motivated volunteer researchers in all fields relevant to seasteading. If you have knowledge or experience in engineering and are looking for a topic, our past research and our now defunct five year engineering development plan (due to financial constraints we are no longer pursuing this five year plan) are good sources for inspiration. You can always email our staff at with any questions.

Qualified applicants should apply with a brief proposal, along with a resume or description of any relevant background or experience. Student independent study and internship projects are encouraged and can be accommodated. See our Students page for more information.The main research page has more information on our overarching objectives, as well as alternative project formats to research. Examples of future engineering research topics include:

  • What international treaties and passages from the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) will impact seasteads?
  • What actions can seasteads take to foster trust in the international community?
  • How can seasteads receive aid/safe shelter in the event of an emergency or a once-in-a-hundred-years storm?
  • What are the pros and cons of the flags of various countries in terms of international reputation, quality of legal institutions, cost of registry, etc.?

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