Could working from a converted cruise ship docked in the tropics be the future of office life? ‘Seasteading’ pioneer, Ocean Builders, seems to think so. Olivia Palamountain reports
Ocean Builders‘ plan to convert luxury cruise liners into ocean communities of digital nomads, crypto-enthusiasts and entrepreneurs is one step closer to fruition with the first wave of cabins up for auction aboard MS Satoshi.
The 804ft ship (named after the elusive Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto) is being prepared to set sail from the Mediterranean and anchor in the Gulf of Panama where it will welcome its first residents in early 2021.
MS Satoshi, aka the Crypto Cruise Ship, houses 777 cabins (tentatively priced between US$25,000 to US$50,000) with a capacity of 2,020 people plus crew and crew quarters. Facilities include multiple restaurants, a theatre, casino, gym and wellness areas.
The ship will be used for tourism, home residence, research and office space and aims to become an incubator for innovation and entrepreneurship.
The brainchild of Ocean Builders COO Chad Elwartowski, a Michigan-born software engineer turned bitcoin trader, the goal is to create a floating community for the advancement of ocean technology, engineering, sustainable living and experimentation.A leading figure in the seasteading movement, a libertarian group dedicated to building independent floating cities on the high seas, Elwartoski is convinced that the global pandemic has actually done wonders for the cause.
“Coronavirus is an opportunity to show the world that what we’re building is actually going to be very useful in the future,” Chad Elwartowski told The Guardian, in a recent video post from his beachside base in Panama.
“No matter if you’re scared of the virus or the reaction to the virus,” he adds, “living out on the ocean will be helpful for these situations.”
If Elwartowski’s vision is realised, the MS Satoshi will be a gathering place for digital nomads, cryptocurrency enthusiasts, expats, researchers, and entrepreneurs, working together in a blockchain and non-blockchain crypto-friendly environment. Bitcoin, US. dollars and other forms of payment are accepted.
He says: “We look forward to creating a hub for technology and innovation here in Panama. Our goal is to figure out how to live sustainably on the sea and chart new waters in this new frontier.”
From cheap deals and health screening, to group charters and party ships, the cruise industry is working hard to rebuild its appeal – post pandemic and indeed before coronavirus struck, as Anthony Pearce, co-founder of Cruise Adviser magazine writes for Globetrender here.
However, a reimagining of the cruise as a crypto-fuelled utopia for Silicon Valley tech nuts and start-up bros probably wasn’t what it had in mind. That said, when it comes to WFA or WFH, living it up on an ocean liner off Panama with a tribe of likeminded nerds doesn’t sound too bad.
Ocean Builders hopes that entrepreneurs will come on board to run restaurants, events, fitness classes, and other businesses and is calling on the elites of London, San Francisco and New York to join them on their floating office.
Residents will pay an ongoing fee for the upkeep of the ship and amenities (amount yet to be determined). Ocean Builders is able to assist residents with acquiring permanent residency in Panama if they want to live in the country full time.
To complement life on board MS Satoshi, Ocean Builders recently began construction of its floating, off-grid SeaPod homes on the Caribbean side of Panama. They plan on housing employees on the ship as they begin building on the Pacific side.
According to The Telegraph, this is not the first time that the idea of an ocean community has been floated. Sun Microsystems executive Wayne Gramlich and Milton Friedman’s Google engineer grandson Patri launched The Seasteading Institute in 2008, with the backing of Palantir founder and Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel.
“Just like the man-made island of Venice, Italy became an important centre of commerce in the old world,” writes Elwartowski on MS Satoshi’s website. “We believe this could be the start of a modern floating Venice of the Americas and an important hub of innovation in the world.”