Is It A Boat? Is It A City? No It’s The Freedom Ship!

Freedom Ship

Imagine a Cruise Liner so huge that it was unable to dock at most harbours in the world. Imagine living on it in a safe and secure community, from which you could run your business, enjoy extensive entertainment and recreational activities and benefit from large areas of open space. Imagine being able to live, work, retire, or visit such a place, while it continuously circled the globe…….You are imagining The Freedom Ship – anticipated to be the largest vessel ever to sail the oceans of the world.

The project of a “floating city” was first proposed in the late 1990s and the name Freedom Ship was chosen because of the free international lifestyle which this ocean colony was hoped to offer. It would be more a series of linked barges than a conventional ship, with a width of around 750 ft at the beam and a total length of 0.8 miles, (4 times longer than the Queen Mary). The height above sea level would be about 340ft and the vessel would weigh in the region of 2.7 million tons.

At 25 stories high there would be housing for 50,000 people and the city would have an airport on the top deck, with a fleet of commuter aircraft and hydrofoils to ferry residents to and from the shore. It would also house a library, hospital, schools, shops, banks, hotels, restaurants, entertainment facilities, gardens, offices, casinos, warehouses and light manufacturing and assembly enterprises, as well as a huge array or recreational and athletic facilities befitting a world-class resort.

Will It Ever Be Built?

Initially the start date was given as 2001, but as of early 2014 no work has yet begun on the project. The net cost was at first estimated at 6 billion US dollars, but by 2002 it had risen to 11 billion. In 2008 it was announced that there were problems obtaining financial backing and the project was put on hold, but in Nov 2013 it was stated that it was being resurrected with an estimated price tag of 10 billion dollars.

It was originally the brainchild of an engineer from Sarasota, Florida, named Norman Nixon. He was accused of trying to create a tax haven for the rich, but this allegation he denied. He did, however, intend to sell the one bedroom units on the ship for a start figure of 150,000 dollars and luxury units for between 7 million and 10 million dollars. The ambitious project failed to attract financial backing, however, and after the financial crisis it was abandoned. Nixon himself passed away in 2012, without realising his ambition to retire and live on his brainchild for two years.

When the economic climate began to pick up Roger Gooch, part of the original team working with Nixon, decided to try to revive the project. After highlighting it in the press he was delighted with the response he received. A number of private investors have expressed interest but no venture capital firms have reached out so far. He remains confident though that he will be able to raise the 1 billion dollars he needs to start building. The proposed budget remains at 9 – 10 billion dollars and the vision is still that the vessel will circle the earth every two years, spending roughly 70% of its time moored outside major cities and ports. The current plan is to have 17,000 residential units which will house over 60,000 people including residents and personnel who maintain the ship. The Freedom Ship is planned to be environmentally friendly, using solar panels and wave energy. There will be no sewage treatment plant, but incinerator toilets will be used to burn the sewage and the ashes will be used as compost for the gardens. It will have diesel engines, waste oil will be burned in an exhaust system to create more electricity and all glass, paper and metal waste will be recycled and sold.

Gooch thinks of the vessel as a “super-platform” rather than a ship and compares it with others in the world, such as the much smaller one in Japan, used as an airport. At the moment he remains convinced that the idea of an autonomous city circumnavigating the world can be economically viable.

What about the question of taxes and governing laws on board? The expectation is that most of the passengers/inhabitants will abide by the federal tax laws of their home country, but there will be no local taxes, such as income tax, real estate tax, sales or business tax or import duties. As to the question of whose laws it will operate under, that will be likely to depend on the country whose flag they fly. On the other hand, with no land boundaries, can it be thought of as a separate independent principality with its own laws and government? These are some interesting problems which will have to be worked out, assuming that the initial challenge of funding is successful. Like Nixon, Gooch is keen to live on the Freedom Ship himself, if it is built in his lifetime.

So – fact or fiction? A vision or a viable proposition? Your guess is as good as mine, but if the dreams of Norman Nixon and Roger Gooch do materialise and you encounter a floating city moving towards you on your evening cruise, it may not be a case of too many G & Ts.

Author – Dee White

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