Back in the 1990s, a team of visionaries started planning a floating city of 50,000 to 100,000 people, with shops, restaurants, and other amenities, that would travel the globe and let people spend their entire lives at sea.
Named Freedom Ship International, the project was the brainchild of a Florida engineer named Norman Nixon. “As soon as we get this joker built we’re going to retire and live on it for two years,” he bragged in 2002.
That never happened. The ambitious project struggled to attract venture capital and was abandoned after the financial crisis. Nixon himself passed away last year. Things could be about to change for Freedom Ship International, however. Roger Gooch, part of the original team that worked with Nixon, recently sensed a change in the economic climate and decided to try to revive the idea. Gooch, 60, is a marketing man by training (he also formerly owned an insurance company and worked in the travel industry), so he thought he’d do what he did best and get the idea some press. After a few interviews, the idea was back in the spotlight again.
“It’s gone viral on the Internet,” Gooch told Business Insider with a laugh. “In the last three or four days we’ve been inundated with emails and responses and stuff, most of them have — quite truthfully — been very favourable.”
The press is important, Gooch explains, as the company needs to get past the biggest hurdle — the truly astronomical price tag of the Freedom Ship. Gooch estimates that the project would have a budget of $US9-10 billion ($9.93-11.0 billion), but he says it would provide a good return on investment.
Thanks to the new-found attention, Gooch says, a number of private investors have contacted him about the idea, though no venture capital firms have reached out so far. He says his team is now interested in partnering with “notable or established private maritime entities” and has also floated the idea of what he called a “constructive equity capitalisation” — wherein the vendors he would use to construct the Freedom Ship would be given equity in the finished product for discounts of services and goods.
The plans for the Freedom Ship are certainly audacious. The 1.6km-long and 25-storey-high ship would circle the planet every two years, spending roughly 70 per cent of its time moored outside major cities and ports (it will be too big to enter most ports, so residents can fly to and from the shore from the Freedom Ship’s onboard airport).
On board, the floating ship would have its own economy, with tens of thousands of people working in shops, bars, and other businesses, and everyone on board paying a maintenance fee to support infrastructure such as security services and fire fighters.
Gooch is adamant, however, that the project is feasible, and points out that technically the idea of a city on a boat is a misnomer — the Freedom Ship is actually a “super platform”. Continue reading “‘City on a ship’ plan refloated” »