Historic Seasteading agreement to see floating city built in French Polynesia

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.”

Images courtesy of The Seasteading Institute

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.”

Chelsea Manning: Obama rights a wrong before leaving office

With only days to remaining on his second term, President Obama has agreed to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who will now be released from prison on 17 May 2017.

Manning entered military custody in 2010, and was set to serve a 35 year sentence for passing more than 700,000 classified documents and videos to Wikileaks.

“Chelsea deserves her freedom, and the world’s respect, for her courageous, inspiring actions in 2010. Chelsea’s releases through WikiLeaks helped bring an end to the US war on Iraq, galvanised Arab Spring protesters and inspired subsequent truthtellers,” said Sarah Harrison, acting director of the Courage Foundation, a legal defence group that’s backed Manning.

“Chelsea should also be admired for the way she has drawn international attention to battles for transgender rights and against prison abuse, in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable.”

Manning’s original sentence of 35 years was the longest ever attached to her crime, and her experiences in detention included having to endure torturous solitary confinement, which included being locked up alone for 23 hours a day over an 11-month period.

Since Manning’s incarceration in 2010, she revealed that she identifies as a woman (Manning had previously been known as Bradley Manning), however her gender dysphoria went unacknowledged, and Manning remained in an all-male facility.

In the past year Manning attempted suicide twice, but rather than provide psychological care, the Army responded to Chelsea’s attempt by punishing her with a week in solitary confinement.

“Obama may well have just saved Chelsea Manning’s life. Freeing her is clearly and unambiguously the right thing to do, and not just for the obvious humanitarian reasons, though those are absolutely compelling,” said Harrison.

Manning’s release has been celebrated by fellow whisteblower Edward Snowden, who tweeted his thanks to President Obama, and by Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, whose site reposted a statement from the first day of Manning’s trial, which Assange claimed was “show trial” where “the verdict was ordained long ago.”

A week ago, Wikileaks also tweeted, “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case.”

However, it is unclear at this point whether Assange will stand by this commitment.