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Will Your Kids Live in a Floating City?

I’m about to go on holidays and may be posting sporadically, so I bring you a little bit of history for the pre-dotcom days. This was first published in Technocopia.com in December of 1999 and I interviewed Mr. Nixon about his dream.

There’s a new city on the horizon and it is the floating community called the Freedom Ship.

Freedom Ship is the dreamboat of Norman L. Nixon, who has licenses to practice structural, electrical, sanitary and civil engineering. Nearly a mile long, wider than two football fields and rising twenty-five stories above water, it will be the first self-contained city that not only floats, but also will circumnavigate the world every two years. It will set into ports for the benefit of its residents and for tourists to come onboard and shop at duty-free stores.

Using new technology, Nixon’s plans for a pollution-free, energy efficient and safe ship beyond standard measures used on ships or in cities today. Freedom Ship’s website informs us that “As a sea-going commercial vessel, it will fly the flag of a specific country (to be determined at a later date), enjoy the protection of that country, and be subject to its laws and regulations, as well as to maritime law. In addition, its residents will be subject to the ship’s Rules and Regulations.”

If this is so, then how will Mr. Nixon promise the tax-free lifestyle that he advertises to businesses and residents? Surely whatever country the ship sails under will demand taxes from its residents–Colleen

Most cities evolve naturally, starting as small communities set up around some service or trade that grows as workers move in. Merchants and services then appear in proportion to the inhabitants’ needs. Freedom Ship will start from the ground up on all fronts. Built with every amenity and a wide variety of facilities, the four thousand businesses and seventeen thousand homeowners will find everything they need on board including:

  • A fleet of commuter aircraft and hydrofoils to ferry people to and from shore
  • Hangars, internal marina, repair and machine shops for private aircraft and boats
  • Residential space with (supposedly) fifty different styles available
  • A multi-language library, with computer and internet accesses
  • Schools from K-12 through college, emphasizing science, engineering, and medicine
  • A first-class hospital, with wide spectrum medical care and philosophies at “reasonable cost”
  • Domestic and home nursing personnel
  • Retail and wholesale shops, including bakeries and supermarkets
  • Over 140 acres of outside open space
  • Banks with currency exchange and fund transfers
  • Hotels for those wishing to vacation on the Freedom Ship
  • Restaurants, done in different cultural flavors
  • Entertainment facilities; movies, theaters, clubs, casinos
  • Offices
  • Warehouses
  • Light manufacturing and assembly enterprises
  • A wide array of recreational and athletic facilities
  • Electricity, satellite TV, and water
  • Internet connection and phone service at a very good rate. Free radio communication.

A great deal of money will be needed to construct the Freedom Ship–6 billion dollars’ worth. Although Nixon has some backers, it’s obvious that construction money will most likely be generated by the sale of the residential units. The promotional information stresses that there are no hidden costs and no taxes such as homeowners’ taxes. The sixteen different units listed on the website range in price from $138,000 for a 10’x30′ room with no kitchen to $7,178,600 for a 5100 square foot ocean view residence. That’s pretty pricey and though Mr. Nixon is quoted as saying average prices are $800,000 with some units going for as little as $24,000, none are listed on the site.

A 10’x30′ room is a small as the room I am currently writing in. And such a residence would not have a view of the ocean but of the hall or maybe the shopping mall.—Colleen

Even though there will be no property taxes, utility fees are said to “be only slightly more than USA rates,” and monthly maintenance fees “comparable to those of USA land-based luxury condominiums” are listed from $469 to $11,616. Few people who own a house or condominium pay monthly fees that would come close to these amounts. You could consider the benefit of the unending cruise to different ports of call as part of that price.

Some amenities will be included for that price such as no sales tax, spa and recreational facilities like jogging paths, open land and tennis courts (just like a regular city), twenty-four hour tram and railway system, and discounts on ship-operated stores like transportation and medical. As well, every shipboard resident will be given a credit card and billed monthly for purchase by the ship’s computer.

With such prices for residential units, Freedom Ship may be a resort city only for the rich. Yet there will be ample employment opportunities. Businesses can hire their own employees or use the ship’s “employee leasing services” where workers will be trained, given uniforms, access to the employee cafeteria, and room and board on the lower decks. One could say this sounds similar to Victorian England’s upper and lower classes with the servants kept separately, yet many people work on cruise ships today, living in similar situations, to make and save their money, and see the world.

Such a large ship or city will also need its own security force. A two thousand-strong security force will patrol the decks, do security checks as people board and be reinforced with an “electronic incursion-detection system.” Wayne Dawson of the Free Nation Foundation (a Libertarian think tank) questions whether “there has been any thought to dispute resolution or a court system.”

Building the Leviathan

The task of constructing a cohesive working city that will house fifty thousand residents, fifteen thousand employees and up to twenty-five thousand visitors is as monumental as the ship’s size. And none of the finer details will matter if the ship cannot withstand the rigors of the sea.

Originally Norman Nixon and his company Engineering Solutions, Sarasota, Florida, designed a modular ethylene plant in Japan, which was then towed to Saudi Arabia and the one hundred cells reassembled on site. From that technology, used for floating oil-drilling rigs, they looked at building an island city from the ground up for Hong Kong (which did not materialize). A backer then suggested building an island that could visit different countries.

Freedom Ship was born from that idea and six hundred airtight modules would allow the massive ship to float. Unlike cruise ships, the Freedom Ship is wider than it is tall and if the ninety-eight external modules were breached and flooded the ship’s draft would only increase by one foot, say the designers. As well, they say it would withstand force five hurricanes, be “impervious to lightning” and “virtually fireproof,” but there will still be an automatic sprinkler system.

Remember, like concrete buildings, it’s not the building that burns but what you put into it. After all, they said the Titanic was unsinkable too. —Colleen

Some architects and engineers are skeptical about the structural integrity because the floating city is five times larger than the largest cruise ship. Popular Mechanics points out that, “The Destiny displaces 100,000 tons of water. The largest vessel afloat, the supertanker Jahre Viking, displaces 564,739 tons. Freedom will displace 2.7 million tons.” (02/98) That’s an awful lot of water. But Nixon and his team of twenty-four engineers and consultants say it can be done and that a hundred-foot wave would only displace the ship by one inch.

Mr. Nixon hopes to confirm Puerto Castilla, Honduras as the construction site within the next couple of months. Freedom Ship will take forty months to build, with assembly to be done at sea because of its size, but it will set sail after twenty-eight months and the first four thousand units are built. Construction and interior detailing will be finished on the other decks over the last twelve months.

State of the art technology will be used to make the vessel safe and as environmentally friendly and non-polluting as possible. Some of the features are:

  • Use of high-tech incinerator toilets that eliminate sewage and sewage disposal.
  • Recycled gray water from washing into drinking water
  • Non-welded, bolt-up construction that eliminates pollution
  • Recycling of all glass, metal, paper and plastic
  • Clean burning of non-recyclable materials as fuel for steam and power generation
  • Energy recapture of engine exhaust, using a proprietary system
  • Environmentally clean and energy-efficient appliances
  • Water-based paints, natural fibers, and natural wood wherever possible
  • Minimization of plastic or other petroleum-base products capable of outgassing
  • Electrostatic filters in every unit and the hallways, eliminating airborne bacteria and viruses as well as dust and pollen
  • Using diesel instead of cheap marine fuel because it burns cleaner

Mr. Nixon isn’t the only one who has put thought into floating cities. Richard Morris of the Free Nation Foundation has looked at designing a man-made island that would be tax free, and able to be towed or pushed out of the path of oncoming storms. His company, Sea Structures, Inc., looks at floating structures as being more stable than those built on land and subject to tremors and earthquakes.

Raising the Titanic might be easier than building the Freedom Ship. However, Norman Nixon has already spent two years working on his vision and the scrupulous details. If contracts are approved on the Puerto Castilla site, construction could very well begin in the next few months. It will be an interesting experiment, if nothing else, to see not only if the world’s largest ship can be built, but whether a floating city can be constructed on the spot and support a viable commercial and residential life for its inhabitants.

Ten years after this article and it seems the Freedom Ship is nowhere near its launch though Nixon is trying to keep his dream alive.

More Information and Related Sites

Freedom Ship website http://www.freedomship.com

Dr. Eugene Tsui Architect design of floating cities books http://www.tdrinc.com/home.html

Popular Mechanics—illustration and short discussion on floating sea cities http://popularmechanics.com/popmech/sci/tech/9905TUOCAM.html

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A Case of Indulgence

This was the last of the Fearsmag articles that I wrote. I thought of putting it out tomorrow but I could be nursing a hangover, or more likely sleeping in. That’s one of my indulgences.

In whatever stage of abstinence or feeding our appetites that we managed to survive through the holiday season, we now suffer the aftermath. A new year has begun and in many cultures it becomes a time of reckoning, of cleaning our mental houses, of taking stock and changing or honing up on our past year’s progress.

Often January is a time of making too many promises and setting stakes too high. You might say it’s the time of atonement, whether you’re religious or not, for our past sins, be it laziness, overindulgence, taking on too much, doing too little, not changing, lacking stability, clinging to the past or not planning the future. We try to set past abuses or mistakes right with New Year’s resolutions. If we can whitewash the slate, perhaps we can start fresh and ignore all that’s gone before.

Or not.

Not too many years ago, I decided to stop making resolutions. After all, why set yourself up for a fall? We resolve to make these changes in our lives, often drastic ones, and wonder why we then fail to change. In January, because there’s no planning for holidays, we’re broke from spending too much and have already saturated our flesh with sugar, alcohol, salt and fat; we heroically battle our faults. Start a new year, start a new plan, start right.

And time, which is really just a big wound-up clock that we imagine, unwinds the wheel of the year as well as our plans, which fizzle by March if not earlier.

I guess I learned the lesson. Don’t overindulge through the holidays, then you won’t have to diet yourself down to the right size again. Of course, many people control themselves throughout the year and feel that this is the one time to let loose, to balance the scales even if those scales can be tipped to one side rather quickly and it takes the whole year to get back there again. To indulge or not—the fear to let go, to take the plunge.

We have set ourselves a tricky quest in this new century, as in the old. We want to have it all but we don’t want to wallow in it. Gourmet chocolate shops, delectable world-select coffee bars, elite watering holes holding alcohol from every exotic locale, and the finest clothes made of wondrous fabrics not seen since the Egyptians wove cotton, abound in many countries. We surround ourselves with splendor, covet what we don’t have and continue to search for the most expensive, exquisite or unique of today’s fads.

Well, what’s wrong with having the best, of rewarding ourselves for what we’ve accomplished? Nothing, but those that have too much, who can acquire whatever they desire, who have sailed to the highest pinnacle and hover there, are watched by the heaving millions with envy, jealousy and ridicule.

Like Icarus and his fateful flight toward the sun, we view movie stars, singers, politicians, the famous, the rich and the powerful as those who try for godhood and will fall back to the earth. And like scavenging vultures, we wait to pull them down or help them on their descent. Each and every person wants what is rightfully theirs, perhaps more than a fair share and will seek it out. All of us would like to indulge. Those that do are loved at first. We hold them like beacons in the darkness of our obscurity. They shine as examples of what can be done, of what-ifs made real and that some people can have it all. Yet, if they stay too long in the flame, we burn them with our scorn. We hold their lives up to that oh-so-bright light and examine every pore, every crack, every flaw.

Michael Jackson is no longer a rising star. His comet is falling and he receives as much ridicule as adoration, not for his music but for his life that, like any one of ours, cannot stand the polished gleam of godhood for long. Let’s face it, people are hypocrites. It’s all right if I have it, if my loved ones and friends have it, but if others have it and I have to watch for too long, well that’s just not right. Just like the dog that’s done his business in the wrong spot, eventually he gets his nose rubbed in it. Those who have and indulge end up rubbing our noses in it. Not the same as the dog. It’s not necessarily intentional, but many people see this material flaunting as the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. And perhaps there are the unspoken messages that we really don’t like to hear: Could I have done more? Am I doing anything with my life? Will I amount to anything? Does anything I do matter? Will I be remembered after I die? Why have I failed when others have succeeded?

So it is that to indulge, in more than one culture or religion, is seen as a sin, a luring to the dark side, a vice. Indulgence in itself is not necessarily bad. You can indulge someone, let him or her cry, or rant or be a little crazy once in a while. It makes you look magnanimous, open-minded, loving. Having a little chocolate or getting looped or dancing the dawn into being is okay, once in a while. But do it all the time and you become a pig, a dilettante, a bohemian, a hedonist, a self-centered creature. The names abound.

In the end, our indulgences are our own but it’s our society that really let’s us know what’s not right and what is considered overindulgence. So, don’t make a resolution, until you’re ready to, whether it’s January 1st, March 19th or November 23rd. In the end, it matters only to you, and society, your friends or other forces like your body will tell you when to change. Indulge a little but don’t parade it in front of others. And before you indulge, ask yourself, with just a little fear lacing your veins, am I ready for what it will do to me and how others will see me?

Happy New Year. May your indulgences keep you healthy.

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