This article was published in the Spring 1998 issue of Formulations
by the Free Nation Foundation
Freedom Ship Project


by Wayne Dawson

(to table of contents of FNF archives)

1. How libertarian is it?
2. How technologically viable is it?
3. How economically viable is it?

Norman L. Nixon of Engineering Solutions (a company based in Sarasota, Florida) proposes to build the largest ship in the world. The project's web site entices the reader to "Envision a moving city where you can live and run a business. Imagine this community levies no taxes and no import duties." Mr. Nixon sees a need and a market in the world for what he calls "a modern Hong Kong." He expects the floating city, to be called Freedom, to set sail two years after the start of construction and circle the globe every two years. Mr. Nixon is currently evaluating bids from shipyards around the world in preparation for beginning construction this year.

As I prepared to report my impressions of this project, which we at FNF might consider a "new country project" (I use the term loosely), I decided to take another gander at the project's web site. After entering cyberspace and traveling over to <>, I noticed a request that I "Please Read About The Freedom Ship In The February '98 Issue of Popular Mechanics."

Being the type to always obey the dictates of such urgent sounding requests, I immediately went out and purchased the magazine. This turned out to be a good move, since the article proved to give additional insights into the project—that is, beyond the many pages of promotional material which the project's manager had supplied to FNF founder Rich Hammer.

There are three questions that I, being a libertarian, am most interested in.

  (to outline)  (to top of page)

1. How libertarian is it?

They claim to have no taxes, although monthly condo fees ranging from $427 to $9,866 (this after having purchased the condo at a price somewhere between $93,113 and $6,104,600) may seem just as onerous a burden to some as many nations' tax burdens.

The promotional material mentions a "rigorous customs inspection" and "strict security procedures," including confiscation of "weapons, drugs, [and] other contraband."

"No illicit businesses will be permitted." The project manager appears to believe these measures will guarantee "unexcelled" security. I cannot detect that there has been any thought to dispute resolution or a court system—and I somehow doubt that this is because the project is so libertarian as to expect private enterprise to supply these necessary services.

Also, "scrupulous and stringent quality controls will ensure the wholesomeness of onboard food."

Perhaps such controls in the hands of an ostensibly private organization will be more successful than similar state schemes.

But then again, it doesn't have to be very libertarian in order to be vastly more libertarian than most of today's highly statist nations.

  (to outline)  (to top of page)

2. How technologically viable is it?

To say the least it is an incredibly ambitious project. The ship Freedom (assuming project completion) will displace 2.7 million tons of water, as compared to the largest vessel currently afloat which displaces 546,739 tons (the supertanker Jahre Viking).

Mr. Nixon has licenses to practice structural, electrical, sanitary and civil engineering, which—despite my libertarian objections to state licensing—indicates he has unique qualifications to manage a project of this type, especially considering his 7 years' engineering experience and apparently 27 years' project management experience.

What is more important to me than sheer number of years experience, is his being "part of a team of engineers who built a $1 billion modular ethylene plant in Japan and then towed it as more than 100 modules to Saudi Arabia, where it was reassembled" (according to the Popular Mechanics article)—that, and his "team of 24 engineers and consultants" working on the Freedom Ship project (again, according to Popular Mechanics).

This does not appear to be a wild-eyed, pie-in-the-sky scheme.

  (to outline)  (to top of page)

3. How economically viable is it?

The promotional material claims, "Because the demand for these units will substantially exceed the number available, a priority list of prospective buyers has been established." This appears to be marketing hype because according to Popular Mechanics, out of the 4000 units planned for sale as of Jan 1, 1998, only 600 buyers "have signed on."

Still, at the required $10,000 deposit per buyer, this gives a $6,000,000 deposit account (just for starters), representing what appears to me a considerable market demand at this stage of the project.

I am certainly not ready to drop everything and run off to join the Freedom Ship project, but I will be keeping my eye on this one. D

Wayne Dawson has made it his lifetime goal to "make the world free." He lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and teaches classes in computer programming and other computer subjects.

Email may be addressed to him at <>, and he has a web page at <>.

 (to table of contents of FNF archives)  (to outline)  (to top of page)