O. Shane Balloun on American Law Enforcement Jurisdiction Over Seasteads

O. Shane Balloun has crafted an extremely comprehensive yet very readable 29-page essay on the legal ramifications of American maritime law jurisdiction as it applies to seasteading.

… Counter-intuitively, TSI declares that the physical threats to seasteading, such as tsunamis, typhoons and piracy, actually pose relatively little danger. What causes The Seasteading Institute far greater trepidation in planning its endeavors is “[t]he tangled morass of international maritime politics and law.” A significant part of this tangled morass is American admiralty and maritime law. Thus, a pragmatic assessment of TSI’s legal obstacles must include an analysis of potential obligations and liabilities under United States criminal law in admiralty, because the United States exercises broad power over the high seas.

Citing myriad sources, O. Shane comes to the conclusion that, while seasteading faces potential legal challenges from American maritime law, all is not lost:

[T]he United States is least likely to interfere with a vessel that does not engage in the activities it is trying to prevent. So long as a seastead does not attempt to illegally take the resources in or violate the health regulations of the United States’ exclusive economic zone, and so long as the seastead enters the contiguous zone while fully disclosing its cargo and manifest, it should enjoy a minimal amount of ongoing interference from the United States. … [A]ssuming a seastead respects the authority of the United States when it comes into contact with this nation, once it parts ways with the Coast Guard or customs officers, the seastead practically will be left to do as it pleases… … To be successful in far future, seasteaders should work toward a fixed-location solution as soon as possible, sail under a flag state willing to advocate for them in international forums, avoid the Atlantic Ocean, and, without question, avoid illicit drug use. For now, The Seasteading Institute is to be commended for focusing on incremental gains rather than purist advances, and for approaching an incredible set of technological and legal problems with American pragmatism and ingenuity.

We owe our thanks to O.Shane for writing about jurisdictional arbitrage, a topic that is extremely complex, and the understanding of which is crucial to the success of seasteading. The essay can be read in its entirety by clicking here. We encourage interested readers to peruse our collection of volunteer research articles at our research page.


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