A birds eye view of Sealand
Sealand, arguably the most succesful attempt to proclaim a man made structure at sea autonomous, a phenomenon also known as seasteading, hasn’t made the headlines for some time now. The 500-square-meter (5,920-square-foot) platform in front of the coast of Ipswich was constructed in WWII primarily for defence against German mine-laying aircraft to protect shipping lanes and therefor was located outside the territorial waters of the UK. At least this was the situation until 1987, when the territorial borders were extended from 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) to 12 nm (22 km).
Being left unused for 2 decades, the platform was occupied by radio pirates in the mid sixties, but things really started to go off in 1967 when Major Paddy Roy Bates and his 15 year old son Michael, both radio pirates too, ceized it. After some legal issues the territory was ruled to lie outside English jurisdiction, after which Roy Bates declared the platform a souvereign principality. In 1975 Bates introduced a constitution for Sealand, followed by a flag, a national anthem, a currency and passports. Besides other self declared micronations and a few disputed (semi-) autonomous unrecognized regions, Sealand has never officially been recognised by any UN country. Germany and U.S. court rulings have both rejected its claims to independence, however Sealand’s self-proclaimed jurisdiction has so far never been breached.
Since the platform is small in size it’s not a real refuge for holidaygoers or freedom seekers. The main means of survival used to be issuing stamps, coins and passports.
After a big scam where unauthorised copies where issued by a Spanish firm, Roy Bates revoked all Sealand passports in 1997.
After a failed attempt to offer secure webhosting from 2000 till 2007. It was put up for sale. The news had it that the Pirate bay, who was under fire in Sweden, was interested to buy the self-declared principality. This attempt however seemed more like a publicity stunt to raise needed funds for the (in)famous torrent indexer rather than a feasable option. Any major activity considered illegal and/or of nuisance, might cause the UK to stop Sealand’s self-declared independence overnight. The sales price of 750m euro (950m US$) was likely far too high for a piece of artificial land in the sea as well that it was and still is far beyond the public funding income potential of Pirate Bay. It would likely be much cheaper to buy a nearly defunct cruiseship and crash it into some reef of choice.
In the same year (2007) Sealand announced to open up an online casino, however the website turned out to be merely a portal for online bingo.
Looking for new means of survival Sealand has now started to issue online Lord, Lady, Baron or Baroness titleships for as ‘little’ as £29.99.
They do offer ID cards too. It’s actual use is very doubtful, but at the time being, titles would form an original gift to honour a respected friend, who then may (jokingly) be addressed as such.
An online advertisement via Google’s Adchoices
Note: Monitoring the news from Sealand for an odd 20 years or so, my impression is that everything they did in the past had an amateuristic feel to it, whereby Roy Bates and his son always seemed to attract shady figures. Ultimately none of the ambitious projects succeeded. The only thing what has remained for almost 45 years, is a defacto small offshore territory left untouched by the rest of Europe.
This time Sealands marketing attempts look more professional than before and they might even succeed to achieve their short term goals.
The Bates family is not alone in their aspiration towards independence. More recently other people have started to fund similar projects, such as Paypal founder Peter Thiel.