A landmark agreement has been signed between the government of French Polynesia and the Seasteading Institute that lays the foundations for the establishment of a floating city in the country’s waters.
Signed on Friday, 13th January, the agreement will see the government and non-profit cooperate to develop a legal framework for what they are now calling The Floating Island Project.
Although located within the territorial waters of French Polynesia, the floating island will have its own governing framework and economic regulations, allowing it to attract businesses with offers of low – if any – taxation and little red tape.
However, it should also offer significant benefits to the nation, by not only bringing jobs and preventing a brain drain on the archipelagos, but also offering resilience to rising sea levels associated with climate change.
“Our seasteading collaboration with French Polynesia was initiated by the Tahitians themselves and will bring jobs, economic growth, and environmental resiliency to the region,” explained Randolph Hencken, executive director of the Seasteading Institute.
“Signing the memorandum of understanding with French Polynesia is an important first step, and a huge milestone for seasteading.”
The agreement is a vital step in what has already been a long journey towards the development of such a floating city. Back in September, a delegation from the Seasteading Institute examined multiple sites around French Polynesia, as well as meeting with several of the nation’s senior ministers.
Now a memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been signed, the next steps will be to complete and extensive environmental assessments of the ocean and seabed, as well as the completion of an economic analysis by the Seasteading Institute to demonstrate the financial benefits to the nation.
“The Seasteading Institute and the government of French Polynesia will draw from the best practices of more than 4,000 existing Special Economic Zones around the world to create a ‘Special Economic SeaZone,’” added Hencken.
“The SeaZone will combine the advantages of French Polynesia’s geopolitical location with unique regulatory opportunities specifically designed to attract businesses and investors.”
When construction finally begins on the floating islands, it will be funded by investors in the Seasteading Institute, with a total anticipated cost somewhere between $10m and $50m. The floating platforms that will house the city have already been designed by Dutch engineering firm Blue21, meaning the focus now is on making the concept work for the area.
The organisation plans for many businesses on the floating island to be areas of clean-tech, meaning there are likely to be numerous skilled jobs available to the people of French Polynesia.
“We need to create new clean-tech and blue economy jobs for our youth, and this project has the potential to be a real game-changer locally,” said Marc Collins, former Minister of Tourism for French Polynesia. “This project could help us retain our bright minds, who would otherwise emigrate for work.”
However, with many of the country’s islands under threat from rising sea levels, the project also could provide a long-term survival solution for the nation.
“Polynesian culture has a long history of seafaring across the Pacific Ocean that will contribute to this ambitious project. More than most nations, our islands are impacted by rising sea levels, and resilient floating islands could be one tangible solution for us to maintain our populations anchored to their islands,” added Collins.
“For many Polynesians, leaving our islands is not an option.”