The True Obstacle to the Autonomy of Seasteads: American Law Enforcement Jurisdiction Over Homesteads on the High Seas

55 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2014

See all articles by O. Shane Balloun

O. Shane Balloun

Balloun Law Professional Corporation

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 19, 2012


The Seasteading Institute (TSI) seeks to develop permanent communities on the last frontier on earth: the ocean. TSI would assist others to eschew old world political and social systems in favor of new, voluntary systems of living in the hope that the high seas will maximize their autonomy. TSI defines seasteading as the creation of "permanent dwellings on the ocean - homesteading on the high seas." Without question, the undertaking that TSI envisions will require massive technological prowess to safely and profitably overcome the obstacles the ocean presents. Clearly, TSI must seek to comprehend fully the nature of the sea and the risks it would present to ocean-pioneers.

Fortunately, The Seasteading Institute approaches the risks of homesteading on the high seas with a healthy pragmatism. 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.

Note: This edition, after revision, was published by the University of San Francisco Maritime Law Journal in Spring 2012. The author retains copyright.

Keywords: seasteading, The Seasteading Institute, admiralty, maritime, maritime law, admiralty law, American admiralty law, jurisdictional arbitrage

Suggested Citation

Balloun, O. Shane, The True Obstacle to the Autonomy of Seasteads: American Law Enforcement Jurisdiction Over Homesteads on the High Seas (June 19, 2012). University of San Francisco Maritime Law Journal, Vol. 24, No. 409, 2012, Available at SSRN:

O. Shane Balloun (Contact Author)

Balloun Law Professional Corporation ( email )

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Suite 201
Bellingham, WA 98225
United States

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