Secret Seastead Ends in Death

Samuele Landi, a middle-aged man smiles while sitting at the edge of his barge next to a shipping container, the ocean waves behind him.

Samuele Landi lived in international waters for over a year. A storm ended his seastead experiment and caused three deaths. What does this mean for seasteading?

The man who had been living on a secret seastead for 13 months died in a storm off the coast of Dubai along with two employees on February 2, 2024, exactly five years to the day after XLII, the first seastead, was established off the coast of Thailand.

We’re still waiting for DNA analysis to confirm who is among the dead.

What does this mean for the future of seasteading?

This tragedy is why The Seasteading Institute has been working with ocean industry professionals to establish safety standards with the First Seastead Classification Society.

The Maverick

Please remember Samuele Landi had a family who loved him and employees who were grateful to him. Two employees who died with Landi, Abdul and Javed Khan, were working to send money back to their families.  The filmmaker shooting a documentary about Landi says his swashbuckling charisma inspired everyone he met.

He was also a fugitive from Italian law for 14 years. 

Landi’s deadline to appeal one of his sentences passed February 17. 

Was Landi a hero or an outlaw?  He has been described as a motorcycle race champion, parachutist, helicopter pilot, airplane pilot, serial entrepreneur, cybersecurity innovator, Consul General for Liberia, builder of Congolese hospitals, business advisor of the Second Deputy Ruler of Dubai, and CEO convicted of bankruptcy fraud.

“I will die on the sea for sure.”

Samuele reached out to the most daring seafarer, Captain Patrick von Stieglitz, a salty seasteader famous for pushing the frontier of maritime regulations.  Even Captain Stieglitz warned Landi that what he was doing was unsafe.

Samuel. I have had a closer look at your barge and I am here to advise you on a very real possibility. You might not want to believe this but if you [get] caught in hurricane weather cyclones or similar the chances that when [you] get to look around every[ ]one of those containers will be gone.  I know you have got them chained  down but that will not help if the power of a few hundred tonnes of water on the move hits you.  It will clean your deck completely.  You should have in preparation a watertight location below decks for you all to retire to.  When you utilize this is when you start to encounter fear.  Food water survival equipment all very well secured.  Even if the barge turns over it should not lose buoyancy. [T]hink this out as for sure. [I]f it goes bad you will lose everything on deck and for hours before that happens there will be nothing you can do.  [R]espect the ocean and be well prepared

I reached out to Captain Stieglitz, who wrote me:

The day I learnt that the barge was rotten would be just about the same he was wrecked. Too late to do anything

The last conversation I had with Sam was on Feb the 2nd. After that it went dead

Incredibly, Landi himself published a blog about safety risks with barges two days before the deadly storm.

Barges, being flat-bottomed vessels with a large surface area, are particularly susceptible to the effects of high waves. The rocking motion caused by waves can lead to instability and, in extreme cases, capsizing.

The barge didn’t just capsize. It split in half.

The Safety Specialists

For the last year, the nonprofit Seasteading Institute has been developing safety rules for seasteads.  We negotiate to secure partnerships with flagging registries and marine insurance companies to provide the legal means for responsible seasteaders to classify, insure, and legally flag their seasteads.

We will achieve this by delivering engineering safety rules to a premier Ship Classification Society with a request that they create a new category of vessel– not a barge, boat, or oil rig– but a seastead, designed to remain permanently at sea.

If none of the 50-plus Ship Classification Societies can compete to make this affordable for families and businesses, The Seasteading Institute will develop the First Seastead Classification Society.

The First Seastead Classification Society

As soon as we announced this effort, maritime professionals volunteered to help.  Our core team of volunteers include a Naval Architect, a Maritime Network Engineer, a Civil Engineer, a Marine Insurance Broker, a Classification Surveyor, and a Maritime Corporate Development & Investment Advisor. 

Recently we accelerated our effort by using AI to derive safety rules from existing structures at sea, such as floatels, and applying them to secure safety rules for seasteads.

Legal scholars of the highest repute have volunteered to develop a legal plan of action nearly a decade, beginning in 2012 with The True Obstacle to the Autonomy of Seasteads and culminating in 2020 with Seasteads Compliant with International Maritime Conventions.

Every serious seasteader studies this research before they put skin in the game.

The Aquapreneurs

Our nonprofit has helped inspire a dozen seasteading enterprises to begin building all over the world.  

But we only feature eleven on our list. 

Though we informed insiders of the documentary being filmed about Landi’s astonishing year at sea, his seastead was not included among our recommended partners.  Barges were dismissed by the seasteading community as unsafe at the very outset.

Barges are not built for human habitation at sea. They are built to transport heavy loads. They are not stable in high waves.  They corrode over time in seawater.

Seasteads must be designed to float for a century at sea. This will be achieved by employing the Wolf Hilbertz process to encase the seastead in a protective seashell, permanently preserving it as a floating reef and home for sealife. Every seastead we float will increase the amount of life on the ocean. 

The ocean gives life, and the ocean takes it away.

The Ocean Wants to Kill You

The seas are unpredictable.  Your vessel can float peacefully for five years and then suddenly be confronted by waves five times as high as you’ve ever seen.

The Netherlands built their dykes to withstand a 10,000-year storm.  Likewise, seasteads must be built to withstand the highest wave ever recorded in the region, and then some. Seastead engineers must always assume the worst storm in 10,000 years may occur tomorrow.

The Responsibility of Seasteaders

Seasteading families won’t bring their children to live on seasteads unless they are at least as safe as cruise ships.  If marine insurance companies won’t insure you, the most highly rated flagging registries won’t flag you. Without a maritime flag, no prudent business will domicile on your seastead.

The good news is the process to establish safe seaworthy vessels is well established. 

More than a hundred thousand vessels on the sea adhere to rigorous safety standards developed over time by ship classification societies.  At least 50 such societies compete in a global market to certify vessels are safe, so they can be insured by maritime insurance providers.  Only then will a flagging registry grant the captain authority to govern his vessel at sea.

No Safety? No Seasteading.

For the sake of future floating communities, The Seasteading Institute plans to control the designation “certified seastead” through the sheer power of our reputation for professionalism.

Nobody gets to call their vessel a certified seastead unless the safety professionals at The Seasteading Institute guarantee their novel vessel is safe, insured by a respectable marine insurance provider, and flagged by a premier flagging registry. We will steward professional seasteaders through this process.

Likewise, if a maverick builds his own structure without following known protocols established by the ocean industry over time, The Seasteading Institute plans to say, “We did not certify that vessel as safe.”

But consider the patch of land you live on. Did it start out safe?

The Blue Frontier

Of course, no new frontier gets settled without pioneers taking extravagant personal risks.

Name your favorite country. Chances are, it was founded by a maverick.  

Seasteading benefits from a rich legacy of historic swashbucklers.

The Principality of Sealand

In 1968, Michael Bates, the 14-year-old Prince of SeaLand, guarding his micronation alone, fired a warning shot across the bow of an approaching British Navy vessel.  The Royal Navy retreated, but competing mavericks raided Sealand in a sneak attack and jailed the boy on Sealand.  His dad, the founding father of Sealand, Major Paddy Roy Bates, rappelled off a helicopter with a shotgun to rescue his son and lock the invaders in the same jail. Later, his wife, Princess Joan, former beauty queen, confronted intruders with a gun.  The brave Bates family has established a dynasty on the Principality of SeaLand that flourishes economically to this day.

Heroes or outlaws?

The Republic of Rose Island

That same year, engineer Giorgio Rosa built his own island on stilts 500 meters outside Italian national waters and christened it an independent microstate.  The Italian government blew it up.  Never let it be forgotten they blew up his dog. Such actions gave credence to Landi’s assertion that he was sentenced to jail simply because the Italian government is corrupt.

Heroes or outlaws?

Chad and Nadia watched the 2020 movie about Rose Island waiting for the drama to start.

“The Freest Person in the World”

In 2019, the First Seasteaders faced even more dangers than Samuel Landi.  Chad and Nadia were accused by the Royal Thai Navy of crimes punishable by death or life in prison. They somehow survived to build seasteads again in Panama.  Their heroic story is featured in my 46-minute documentary, and soon, my forthcoming book, The Freest Person in the World.

Heroic outlaws come to the rescue for each other. The Principality of Sealand was the only nation on earth to publicly offer Chad and Nadia a safe haven during the manhunt, announcing:

Their views, as well as those held by the wider SeaSteading community are closely aligned with ours: Creating your own path away from traditional governance is not a crime – certainly not be one punishable by death. Such a draconian reaction from a national government serves as a stark reminder of why it is important to challenge the status quo.

Governments didn’t say that.  Heroic outlaws did.

“From the Sea, Freedom.”

The civilized people who move to a promising new society rely on the risk-taking of mavericks.  Most people defending governments in the West don’t don’t even know they owe many of their sacred values to pirates. These include democracy, republics, equality, diversity, and worker’s compensation. 

Pioneers establish new societies. Professionals civilize them. 

The nonprofit Seasteading Institute is working to steward our movement from the pioneers to the professionals. 

Who was Samuele Landi? Watch this six-minute sneak peek at a forthcoming documentary called The Legend of Landi: Requiem for a Floating City, where you can also support the film.

The Amazing Ozymandias

I know stories motivate people. Ozy the filmmaker was so inspired by our seasteading book, he immediately attended Ephemerisle, a yearly floating festival described in the first chapter.  The first rule of Ephemerisle, established by The Seasteading Institute in 2009, is “No dying.”  After attending, the amazing Ozymandias immediately risked death on the rusty rotten barge to document the adventure of Samuele Landi.  

If Ozy hadn’t been delayed on his second journey back, he would have been on the barge when the storm struck.

No More Martyrs

The mavericks have done their jobs. They’ve risked and lost their lives to prove seasteading can work. The amazing Oxymandias nearly died to acquire his astounding footage that includes the last three martyrs of seasteading.

Seasteading is not just a dream anymore. It’s a practical reality, advancing fast on many continents in the very dangerous environment of the free and wild sea. 

Sophisticated ocean industries have already established the legal framework for seasteading to prosper.  It’s time for everyone passionate about new societies at sea to engage in the known process of rendering vessels safe, affordable, insured, and flagged at sea.

Would you like to help? Several maritime professionals have volunteered. Join them.

Your generosity has helped us inspire the founding of a dozen seastead initiatives. You have propelled us to 2024, the year we begin to secure the legal framework to live free on the sea. DONATE HERE.

Support the forthcoming documentary, The Legend of Landi

See you on safe seas.