On our planet, where the landmasses are under the control of nation states, pioneers compelled by the libertarian ideal of escaping what they experience as the limitations concomitant with existing societal structures are drawn to the oceans. In particular, the ‘high seas’, also referred to as international waters, are of interest to would-be seasteaders as activities taking place in these vast ocean areas are beyond the jurisdictional reach of coastal states. Indeed, the terms ‘marine commons’, ‘areas beyond national jurisdiction’, and the legal principle of the ‘freedom of the high seas’ may give the impression that conditions similar to those of the American ‘Old West’ apply on the high seas. However, even though the high seas are certainly difficult to police, it would be a misconception that the activities of individuals there are truly beyond the jurisdictional reach of nation states. So as to assess the degree of freedom offered by the legal environment encountered on the high seas, this contribution will discuss two main questions: whether seasteading would be permissible under international law and whether seasteaders would indeed be able to escape burdensome rules found in national legal systems.


The Author

Bettina Boschen is a Ph.D. Research Associate at the Netherlands Institute for the Law of the Sea (NILOS) at Utrecht University. She received her LL.M. in Public International Law from Reading University in the UK before specializing in the law of the sea, and is an alumnus of the Rhodes Academy of Ocean Law and Policy. A member of the Law of the Sea Interest Group of the European Society of International Law, her research interests cover the theme of ocean governance and sustainable development in the age of globalization. This broad research interest is driven by her Ph.D. research, which focuses on the development of the legal regime governing areas beyond national jurisdiction since the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea with a specific emphasis on the role of the legal principles of the “freedom of the high seas” and the “common heritage of mankind”. Ms. Boschen has attended numerous expert meetings and academic symposia on high seas governance and closely follows the developments at the UN concerning the development of a potential new implementation agreement on areas beyond national jurisdiction. Aside from her academic appointments, Ms. Boschen is an active volunteer and law of the sea research consultant for Stichting The Ocean Cleanup, a not-for-profit organization that aims to collect and remove plastic debris accumulating in the North Pacific Gyre.



E.B. Boschen: The International Legal Framework applicable to Seasteads on the High Seas, in: Victor Tiberius (Ed.): Seasteads. Opportunities and Challenges for Small New Societies, Zurich (vdf), pp. 145-158.