By Dave Stancliff
It would make the Queen Elizabeth II look like a peanut shell bobbing in the ocean. It was to be a floating city with condominium housing for 50,000 people. Projected to be a mile long, with an airstrip to accommodate turboprop aircraft, it would have a duty-free and rapid transit.
What would have been the largest unconventional ship (more like a series of linked barges) in the world, the Freedom Ship, is still confined to blueprints, blustering, and the hovering specter of lawsuits.
This gigantic project was initially proposed by Norman Nixon in the late 1990s. The designers called it the Freedom Ship and said it offered a “free international lifestyle facilitated by a mobile ocean colony.”
The project has been plagued with controversies. In 2003, Nixon, the lead design engineer CEO of Freedom Ship Inc., claimed so many investors liked his idea that he could finance three ships if he wanted too.
Then Nixon said, “A number of these people who came from most every country on earth wanted nothing more than to use us for a scam.” He allegedly investigated over 200 of the want-to-be investors and found them questionable, according to a May 2008 news release on his website.
Some people claim Nixon’s project is nothing but a scam. If it is a scam, then it’s good enough to linger around with hopes of landing financial fish to support it. I don’t say it is a scam. All I know for sure is so far no one has lifted a finger to start building it.
Nixon has complained that bloggers are out to get him and ruin his project. He said he invited his blogger critics to visit with him, his attorney and engineers, in order to refute their claims that he’s running a scam, but there have been no takers.
“They just want to generate controversy and bring people to their web sites,” he wrote in his blog. Nixon claims people took advantage of the Freedom Ship (like the President/Chief Financial Officer he set up to handle financing, who turned over the company’s $400,000 bank account to a man who promised him a $1 million Peruvian Gold certificate!) “ He accuses Wikipedia of making totally false reports.
Nixon promises to sue the now ex-president/chief financial officer “per the laws of the State of Florida for the crime of racketeering. He hopes to win and get back three times the money he lost in court fines. Once this nasty little matter is settled, Nixon said he needs to “complete our IPO. Then we’ll be ready to build the ship and move forward.”
So far there has been no trial. And certainly there have been no attempts to start building the floating city. Construction was originally slated for 2002 with a goal of completion by 2003. An estimated 15,000 workers were to work 24 hours a day to get the ship built in time. It never happened.
Then there’s the slight setback of what to do with all the people (an estimated 4,000) who paid from $80,000 to $5 million to reserve a unit in the ship. Nixon says their money is safely held in escrow and he has stopped accepting reservations.
I would have liked to meet Nixon’s marketing director, Roger Gooch, who grandly declared, “It’s a new lifestyle for the new millennium” in 2002. The promotional literature for the Freedom Ship painted a magnificent picture of a luxurious tax haven that would sail around the world’s oceans, served by a fleet of light aircraft and speed boats.
I’m not so sure I want to meet Nixon and his lawyer. Seems like that would be a strained meeting, with me wondering where he could get the money to build a $6 Billion dollar ship that would dwarf the biggest vessel in the world. I have this nasty habit of referring to reality when it comes to colossal claims.
Why do I think Nixon may be a lot like Bernie (who made off with other people’s money) Madoff? At best, Nixon appears to be a dreamer or a visionary who has collected some like-minded engineers to make maritime history. This guy must have dreams in Technicolor with Dolby sound systems!
Instead of going after bloggers, and anyone else who doubts his claims, Nixon needs to put up or shut up. How many years can he string people along as he tries to land enough fish to finance this fantasy?
The project did get good early press coverage by NPR’s Weekend Edition and Discovery Channel’s Extreme Engineering. No doubt it generated world-wide interest. As the years have gone by, it has slipped into the annuals of what might have been in maritime history, with one exception. One web site, Quality Junkyard.com, posted a glowing account of the Freedom Ship on March, 22, 2009.
I invite anyone who wants to know more fantastic details of Nixon’s engineering marvel to visit web sites under Freedom Ship, or Quality Junkyard, which appears enamored with the project.
For the most complete perspective on this whole project, I highly recommend you read Patri Friedman’s (http://patrifriedman.com) post on this subject. In an update, Friedman said an email was received from a Colonel Karl Krueger who said, “the U.S. is interested in mobile offshore bases, and Norman Nixon and the Freedom Ship team may possibly be involved in such a venture.”
I won’t hold my breath to see if that happens, as it sounds kinda fishy too me. Not that I question Friedman, who is a realist beyond any doubt. No one else, as far as I could find, had so many facts regarding the whole Freedom Ship project.
What kind of social structure would a floating city like this have? It sounds like it would be a great base for wealthy international criminals and businessmen who want a good tax dodge. Or maybe just a Utopia for the rich and famous who are tired of rubbing elbows with the average person.
Promotional materials stated that there would be 5,100 square-foot suites on the ship’s exclusive 21st floor, with prices that start at $3 million. This mighty ship could carry 115,000 total (that’s crew, part-time passengers, and people who permanently live in condos) with even a shopping mall onboard.
As it stands, can you imagine if Somali pirates were to take over that tub? There would be no need to take any other international vessel for ransom for at least a generation!