View Full Version : Micronations: The Principality of Sealand

Saturday, December 4th, 2004, 01:10 PM
During the 1939-45 War, Great Britain established an artificial island on the High Seas. This island was equipped with radar and heavy armaments and occupied by some two hundred servicemen.

The task of the island and its inhabitants was to guard the approaches to the Thames Estuary, where large and vulnerable convoys of shipping were assembled. Some time after the cessation of hostilities, the island was derelicted and abandoned by the British Government.

In the winter of 1966, a British family took possession and commenced the task of equipping and restoring the island. On 2 September 1967, they hoisted their own flag and declared the existence of a new state - the Principality of Sealand.

Their rights and claims of Sovereignty over the island and its territorial waters have been ratified time after time over the intervening years by National Courts and leading international Jurists.

European states, during disputes involving Sealand, have stated that they have no rights or authority in Sealand and the major European states have repeatedly given de facto recognition to the existence and the Sovereignty of Sealand.

Over the years since the declaration of Statehood by Sealand, the family lived a free-frontier lifestyle. They made and enforced the laws of Sealand. They faced and drove off armed attackers and on one occasion, a member of the family was actually kidnapped by armed men and taken to a foreign country against his will.

Sealand came under threat from hostile naval units from other states and, in the early days of independence, there were the most determined attempts made to isolate and starve out the island.

The elements and the sea had to be fought constantly with a relentless determination. It was a very busy, active and adventurous life for the family and their fellow Sealanders and they all thrived on it. Gradually, over the years, Sealand has become increasingly secure and internationally accepted. More and more, the international Lawyers and other Jurists stated that Sealand fulfilled all the legal requirements of a State and that the Sovereignty of Sealand was absolute and unquestionable. The major states of Europe have now accepted this as a fact.

Sealand is located in the southern part of the North Sea some six miles off the coast of Britain and from sixty-five to one hundred miles from the coasts of France, Belgium, Holland and Germany; Latitude 51.53 N, Longitude 01.28 E (see map).

Sealand was founded as a sovereign Principality in 1967 in what had been international waters. Principal and Sovereign: Roy of Sealand.

The Law of Sealand is based on British Common Law and British Law of Contract.
Passports and stamps have been in circulation since 1969.
The Sealand flag is red, white and black.
The official language of Sealand is English.
One Sealand Dollar = one US Dollar

Sealand Govt official website:


The Principality of Sealand claims to be an independent sovereignprincipality which its supporters in cyberspace have classified as a micronation. It is not recognized by any of the constituent nations of the United Nations. If it ever were, it would be by far the smallest country on earth. It has a population that rarely exceeds five, and an inhabitable area of some 550 m².

Sealand occupies a structure that was created when a purpose-built World War II-era Royal Navy barge was towed to a position above Rough Sands sandbar in the North Sea and had its hold intentionally flooded. It is sited six miles (10 km) off the coast of Suffolk, England at 51°53'40"N, 1°28'57"E, and has been occupied since 1967 by family members of Paddy Roy Bates and their associates. See Legal history of Sealand.

In 1968, Michael Bates was summoned to court as a result of an incident during which shots were fired at a British navy vessel in the vicinity of Sealand. According to some reports the vessel's occupants were intending to evict Bates from the fortress, while others state that they were simply attempting to repair a nearby navigation buoy.

In delivering its decision on November 25, 1968, the court stated that the matter was outside its jurisdiction since it occurred outside British territory. Agencies of the UK government subsequently pursued Bates and the occupants of Sealand with a series of litigations involving payment of social security taxes, television licensing, and other levies, but courts consistently ruled that Sealand was not a part of the United Kingdom.

After taking legal advice, Bates declared the fortress to be an independent state, named it Sealand, and declared himself and his wife, Joan Bates, to be its sovereign rulers.

In 1978, while Bates was away, the "Prime Minister" he had appointed, Professor Alexander G. Achenbach and several Dutch citizens staged a coup d'état, forcibly taking over Roughs Tower and holding his son, Michael, captive, before releasing him several days later in the Netherlands.

Bates thereupon enlisted armed assistance and, in a helicopter assault, retook the fortress. He then held the invaders captive, claiming them as prisoners of war. The Dutch participants in the invasion were repatriated at the cessation of the "war"; in contrast, Achenbach, a German citizen, was charged with treason against Sealand and imprisoned indefinitely. The governments of the Netherlands and Germany petitioned the British government for his release, but the United Kingdom disavowed all responsibility, citing the 1968 court decision.

Germany then sent a diplomat to Roughs Tower to negotiate for Achenbach's release, and after several weeks Roy Bates relented – subsequently claiming that the diplomat's visit constituted de facto recognition of Sealand by Germany. Germany has not confirmed this interpretation.

Following his repatriation Professor Achenbach established an "exile" government in Germany, in opposition to Roy Bates, assuming the title of "Chairman of the Privy Council". Upon Achenbach's resignation for health reasons in August 1989, the rebel government's "Minister for Economic Co-operation", Johannes Seiger assumed control, with the position of "Prime Minister and Chairman of the Privy Council". Seiger continues to claim that he is Sealand's legitimate ruling authority.

For a period, Sealand passports were mass manufactured and widely sold (mostly to eastern Europeans) by a Spanish-based group believed to be associated with the Seiger "exile government". These passports, which were not authorised by the Bates family, were involved in several high-profile crimes, including the murder of Gianni Versace. Due to the massive quantity in circulation (estimated at 150,000), in 1997 the Bates family revoked all of the Sealand passports that they themselves had issued in the previous thirty years.

Sealand's claim that it is an independent state is founded on the following two propositions:

1. That when Paddy Roy Bates and his associates occupied the abandoned Roughs Tower in 1967 it was located in international waters, outside the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom and all other sovereign states. Sealand claims de jure legitimacy on this basis.

2. That the actions of the UK government, and of other governments – specifically the government of Germany – in their interactions with Sealand constitute de facto recognition. Sealand claims de facto legitimacy on this basis.

One set of criteria for statehood under international law is defined by the Montevideo Convention. This asserts that a defined territory, permanent population, government and the capacity to enter into relationships with other sovereign states are the only foundation requirements for a sovereign state. As these criteria are commonly understood, a "permanent population" does not entail a population of any specific size, however, the character of that population is generally taken into account. Similar arguments apply with respect to the other three Montevideo Convention criteria – although it is unclear if man-made structures can, or were ever intended to constitute territory under the Convention's terms.

An alternative legal argument against the statehood of Sealand exists in the constitutive theory – a theory widely, but not universally accepted in international law. This states, contrary to the Montevideo Convention, that recognition by other states is a condition for statehood. Since no other state explicitly recognises the existence of the Principality of Sealand, Sealand is not a state under this theory's criteria.

Constitutive theory involves "recognition of existence" as opposed to "diplomatic recognition". For example, until recently Libya was not recognised diplomatically by the UK, but was acknowledged to exist, because the UK government undertook special measures to protect its citizens in that state and did not accept that any other state had sovereignty over the territory administered by Libya.

Since the 1968 UK court decision, the United Kingdom has extended its territorial sea to twelve nautical miles (22 km), in accordance with the 1982United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Sealand has also claimed the waters surrounding Roughs Tower [1] (http://www.fruitsofthesea.demon.co.uk/sealand/factfile.html), and has physically defended this claim on at least one occasion: In an incident in 1990, Roy Bates fired upon the Royal Maritime Auxiliary vessel Golden Eye. The vessel believed itself to be under attack, radioed the Thames Coastguard to that effect, and withdrew.

Although the UK has publicly asserted its authority over Roughs Tower [2] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/778267.stm), it appears to be government policy to refrain from comment or action except when forced. British Government documents, now available to the public under the 30 year expiration of confidentiality, show that the UK drafted plans to retake the fortress, but such plans were not implemented by then Prime Minister due to the potential for loss of life, and a concomitant anticipated legal and public relations disaster.

Despite passing highly restrictive legislation such as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, the UK Government has apparently not attempted to regulate communications or require records from computer servers located on Sealand. Similarly, data protection legislation concerning the transfer of data outside the United Kingdom is apparently not enforced in respect of Sealand.

Legal quandaries arising from circumstances similar to those which apply to Sealand are no longer possible. Since the Third Conference on the Laws of the Sea, the nearest neighbouring state is now required to consent to the construction of any artificial island pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (agreed to on December 10, 1982, at Montego Bay). Moreover, this convention requires the neighbouring state to demolish or have removed any such artificial constructions immediately after use.

According to this convention, there is no transitional law and no possibility to consent to the existence of a construction which was previously approved or built by the neighbouring state. This means that an artificial island can no longer be constructed and then claimed as a sovereign state, or as state territory for the purposes of extension of an exclusive economic zone or of territorial waters.

However, the governments of both the United Kingdom and the United States of America have taken a totally different interpretation of this history.

Beginning almost as soon as the Roy Bates had taken possession of what had been HMS Roughs, a barge built in England and floated offshore and then sunk on Rough Sands sandbar, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Harold Wilson decided to ignore the squatters and deny them publicity. However, Roy Bates then began interpreting the actions of Essex Police who had brought him into a (now defunct) local court for discharging a firearm without a license, as recognition of his claim that he had been in an independent country. The local court had merely stated that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter. It had no power to issue any form of status hearing concerning the occupation of a former Royal Navy sea fort sunken barge.

Not deterred, Roy Bates then proclaimed the sunken barge as the "Principality of Sealand", notwithstanding the fact that the UK had not bestowed upon him the title of prince of a principality. The idea seems to have been born in the head of Roy Bates from the headlines of the day when Prince Charles was about to be named as Prince of the Principality of Wales by his mother the Queen. Unlike Prince Charles, Roy Bates never had any form of sub-sovereignty conferred upon him by any official representing a principal state, so he merely claimed the title for himself.

Although originally occupied and claimed by Roy Bates, it is now usually occupied by a caretaker representing his son Michael Bates who since 1999 has claimed the titles of Prince Michael and Prince Regent.

Sealand possesses a simple constitution, instituted in 1995, which consists of a preamble and seven articles. The preamble asserts Sealand's independence, while the articles variously deal with the Sealand's status as a constitutional monarchy, the empowerment of government bureaux, the role of an appointed, advisory Senate, the functions of an appointed, advisory legal tribunal, a proscription against the bearing of arms except by members of a designated "Sealand Guard", the exclusive right of the sovereign to formulate foreign policy and alter the constitution, and the hereditary patrilinear succession of the monarchy.

Current Sealand government bureaux are: the Bureau of External Affairs, the Bureau of Internal Affairs, and the Bureau of PostsTelecomms and Technology.

Most of the organs of Sealand's government are apparently either inactive or operate outside of Sealand's territory itself.

A Sealand State Corporation was chartered by Roy Bates and charged with the "development of the state" shortly after Sealand's foundation, but its current status and range of activities, if any, is unknown.

In the year 2000 worldwide publicity was created about the establishment of a new entity called HavenCo, a Data haven, which effectively took control of Rough Tower itself. According to the web site of Sealand (http://www.sealandgov.org/), no other visitors or activities would be permitted. The original claim to the right to occupy Rough Tower was maintained by Michael Bates, son of Roy Bates who had removed himself from further daily involvement.

Sealand's legal system is said to follow British common law, and statutes (http://www.sealandgov.com/notices.html) take the form of Decrees enacted by the Sovereign.

The chief of the Bureau of Internal Affairs said in a letter to a Wikipedia editor that the "Advocate-General" (a role not described in the constitution) "may call tribunals in appropriate circumstances". The Bureau of Internal Affairs apparently vets and registers qualified legal professionals to practise "Sealand law", although the level of frequency with which this occurs is unknown.

Source: http://www.fruitsofthesea.demon.co.uk/sealand/

Monday, December 13th, 2004, 08:20 PM

Micronations, temporary autonomous zones and non-places are today’s buzzwords, grouped around the central theme of the utopia. They sound seductive; almost like cultural brands. We do somehow realize that in the wealth explosion of the late nineties, ‘utopia’ became something to wear, something to furnish your house with. Utopia = style.

A utopia is no longer considered anchored in space and time, but an instable combination of both. This utopia has disconnected itself more and more from the ideal, fixed place in Thomas More’s original version of Utopia, dating (http://searchmiracle.com/text/search.php?qq=dating) back to 1516. The new and improved utopia is no longer a vision of the unattainable, but an improvised reality coming to us in a sublime flash of light. We no longer have to wait for future salvation like we used to wait for paradise after death – we are allowed utopian sneak peeks in the here and now. Utopia appears and disappears before it takes a solid form. Your utopia is there to be served and consumed on the spot. Take your chance before it’s too late, and plunge into the dancing crowd of that illegal house party on an undisclosed location somewhere in Berlin.

In the briefness of its appearance, the utopia is about escaping planning and control. We don’t believe anymore that this escape could be permanent. A physical utopia, an aspiring dream of many, is inevitably met with the territorial regulations that have taken control of every square inch of our planet. It is rather impossible to claim a dedicated area for your own utopian activities, without this area being ruled, and your activities being overruled, by the indictment of some existing law.

There is one particularly appealing way of fighting this law whilst knowing you can’t really win. That is the creation of a small nation of your own. Irrelevant to non-believers, but of an immense importance to its own community, the shadow-world of micronations has, in the past years, created its own largely fictional arena of international politics, with even its own conferences and keynote speakers.
More interesting however is the confrontation of the micronation’s existence with the outside world. This confrontation is dealt with in the form of national identity.

That is the objective of the identity design project for Europe’s smallest nation and the world’s most famous one at that, the Principality of Sealand.
Unlike micronations, Sealand makes claims for more than thirtyfive years already to a sovereiogn territory in the North Sea.
In the context of this tiny entity, every thinkable approach can be tested, as Sealand has a memory, but no history; a place, but little inhabitants. Sealand. Autarkic state. Atlantis in ‘Coronation Street’. Home base of legend. This mini-state lies six miles off the British coast, and is surrounded by the grey-green emptyness of the North Sea. In the distance we can just see the mainland; Essex (http://searchmiracle.com/text/search.php?qq=Sex), and still further away, London. This city is crucial to Sealand’s existence. Three milliseconds is the travel (http://searchmiracle.com/text/search.php?qq=Travel) time of a data package from Sealand to the British captal. Sealand’s in-house ‘data haven’, crown jewel of national sovereignty, is a collection of web servers no one can touch. As a company, one can have one’s data stored in this online crypt. Go to www.havenco.com (http://www.havenco.com/)for more information.

Sealand is to be considered ‘the poor man’s Monaco’. An understatement, because the forbidding shape of this barren, nevertheless inhabited object in the North Sea resembles in no way a wealthy tax haven.

Sealand is a concrete-and-steel, man-made island. Architecture in its most elementary form. From the outside, it seems a shipwreck. The interior: a squat.
Its original function was the defense of Britain during the Second World War, a duty it never had to serve. Originally, there were even more of these platforms. The Channel fortresses had terrifying names. Sealand’s original name was ‘Roughs Tower’. A neighbour was named ‘Knock John’. Top-of-the line, and also the largest of all was ‘Shivering Sands’, the unemployed flagship ready to comba (http://searchmiracle.com/text/search.php?qq=MBA)t Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe. After the war, the fortresses wer dismantled by the Royal Navy, except for one. Six miles off shore, too far away for England (who cares, whoever would want such a fortress, what was the use) ‘Roughs Tower’ was left intact. Not even a year after, it was called ‘Principality of Sealand’. Signed: Roy Bates. Business (http://searchmiracle.com/text/search.php?qq=Business)man, ex-officer, and who knows what more he was; amateur radio pioneer, amongst other things. Frequent flyer of the Principality’s own Sealand Air Force helicopter.
The man did two things fundamentally contradictory to each other. One is to squat British property. Second is: to make this into a monarchy. Not much utopian thought there. An e-mail interview with Michael Bates, son of Prince Roy and in that capacity ‘Michael of Sealand’, reveals that polar travel (http://searchmiracle.com/text/search.php?qq=Travel)ler Sir Ernest Shackleton was one of the inspiring forces behind the foundation of Sealand. Sealand, therefore, is the Nova Zembla of the leisure state.

But how should a national identity for such a country be formulated? Sealand for one as a long-standing mini state, and many emerging 'micronations' alike, has already started creating its own flag, stamps, coins and passports long ago. Sealand has released a new series of coins, commemorating the wonderful Orca, endangered predator of the oceans. Some of Sealand’s stamps are centralized around the theme of the great admirals.
This is what we think about when contemplating national identity or its façade; a collection of objects that are a representation of the country or state in question. Some beautifully illustrated with images of important people or buildings. There are dominant visual archetypes at work. Passport typography is almost always used centered, with a serif letter, combined with an outlined symbol or logo that, over the years, has become recognizable to that country. Flags are brightly coloured, with a slight change of pattern, always recognizable in the very first place as, quintessentially, a flag. Sealand happily joins the league with its own archetype national identity and so do many micronations in its following.
This can only imply that freedom is no longer freedom, and that all experimental nations of whatsoever signature, are in search of one and the same archaic meta-identity, an identity that promises freedom through excessive authority. Ever heard of the ‘Principality of New Utopia’? Only proof of existence of this ‘political entity’ is the diplomatic passport. But are there any social security numbers in Utopia? Trade unions? Torture chambers?

Without saying anything about the aesthetic value of national identity objects, it is a fact that these objects have a purpose. And that purpose is usually the reason for the way they are designed. The most important thing is not how they look but what they represent: value and culture. With these objects, religion is represented, territory claimed, goods bought, or rights owned. Each object of a national identity, whether it is a flag, stamp or coin, plays a specific role in the culture that it represents.
Sealand has these objects, designed even, perhaps not as refined as a US dollar note, but they exist. Exist without a social purpose. There is no bakery to use coins, no church to express religion, not even a city or villages to hang flags or a population to provide with passports.

But remember: the cultural purpose is still there. Providing a cheat mode into history, the carriers of national identity inscribe Sealand into a communication mode that allows it to be recognized and remembered.
And second: Sealand does not necessarily need to express merely its own culture, as its contents are, to a great extent, formed by what other say about it.
To prove its existence, Sealand has to rely on a permanent ‘stream of consciousness’ of newspaper articles and television documentaries. Sealand itself exists, not because of its own actions, but because of others communicating about it. More and more, this is happening on the Internet (http://searchmiracle.com/text/search.php?qq=Internet).
In 2000, Sealand is approached by Internet (http://searchmiracle.com/text/search.php?qq=Internet) startup HavenCo. Their goal is to install on the platform a free haven for information, protected by the collected legislation on Sealand’s independence. Sensitive, secret, stolen or copied data directly qualify. A well-known example would be Napster, which allows users to download otherwise copyrighted songs in the virtual equivalent of a dark room; one doesn’t know who the other is, but knows what the other has ‘in store’. This ‘peer-to-peer’ network proves to be illegal according to U.S. copyright law; it leaves stage without much noise. However, we can think of places where the lawsuit against Napster would have ended differently, as the Napster software would be situated on independent territory. Sealand could be this territory.
HavenCo calls this place a ‘data haven’. A place, where all data are concentrated, unattainable for third parties and even for HavenCo itself. Surrounded by water tight constructions; and if not – then destruction. The destruction of one or more web servers on Sealand’s grounds would however imply the complete destruction of the Principality.
Sealand, dinosaur from the industrial age, pocket size Liechtenstein online, besieged by copyright lawyers and eventually by a real army. Who would come for help? The UN maybe? The United Kingdom? International politics of Prince Roy and Crown Prince Michael are closely linked to the opinions of Prime Minister Blair. Months ago, a press release appeared on Sealand’s web site, announcing Sealand’s participation in the War against Terror.

More interesting than the question when Sealand’s pocket data haven is a commercial success, is the circumstance that Sealand and the Internet (http://searchmiracle.com/text/search.php?qq=Internet) became entangled on the level of fact and fiction. A story of invasions, hijacks, kidnaps and forged passports – to carry a Sealand passport in the seventies would provide you free entrance into all sorts of countries. A story of misunderstandings, allegations, and lies. Eventually, all this we might call legend. One legend is the link between a forged Sealand passport and the murder of Gianni Versace, fashion designer. Sealand’s Google-history is a shady timeline of incidents. Apparently, the Internet (http://searchmiracle.com/text/search.php?qq=Internet) introduces, on titanic scale, a form of information which could be called ‘hypothetical truth’. What is told is not what is true, but what is thought believable to seem or eventually become true.
The reason that this works for Sealand is that there is no ‘official’ history to counter an organic stream of consciousness of Sealand stories. We are only a hair’s breadth away from the mechanisms that create contemporary myth, not only for Sealand, but for the world.

‘Hypothetical truth’ nowadays plays an increasingly important role in government policy, as governments turn to mythmaking in order to justify their actions against enemies. In the British security report in Iraq’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’, a student thesis found on the Internet (http://searchmiracle.com/text/search.php?qq=Internet) was used to ‘sex (http://searchmiracle.com/text/search.php?qq=Sex) up the evidence’. If even respected governments turn to Google not knowing whether what comes out makes sense, it is no exaggeration to say that Google is a contemporary oracle, a gambling machine of possible realities.

The observation that information, information management and data streams fulfill such an essential role in the contemporary creation of myth, brings us back to the case of national identity. The heraldic elements that form national crests are, visually, also carriers of myth; dragons in national coats of arms are carriers of legend and power even if we know that dragons don’t exist. In the new definition of national identity, information takes on the role of the dragon.

Written by Daniel van der Velden, Vinca Kruk and Adriaan Mellegers. 'Somewhere' is an altered version of the essay 'Mission Impossible', published in Archis no. 6, 2004.

Postscript April, 2004

The term 'micronation' should be used with some consideration in relation to the Principality of Sealand. Micronations tend to exist only in the minds of their creators, whereas Sealand makes claims to be a sovereign nation with a physical basis, and a historical timeline supporting this claim. In that sense, Sealand is set apart from the category of the micronation.

Monday, December 13th, 2004, 10:24 PM
This is fascinating:I never heard of that.

Thursday, July 20th, 2006, 04:51 AM
Crypto Haven Principality of Sealand Needs Your Donations ..



On Friday, 23 June 2006, a fire erupted on the Sealand platform.
The fire started in one of the Principality's generators and spread to the living room and radio shed, causing an estimated £500,000 (USA$1,000,000) in uninsured damages.

A disaster relief fund has been established, and is accepting donations in UK Pounds via PayPal.

After nearly 40 years of completely independent economic, social, political, and geographic independence in the North Sea the Principality in late June of 2006 suffered a devastating fire which has crippled its infrastructure significantly. In common with other island countries, our resources here are limited; the difficulties this disaster presents are compounded by the effects upon our population and industries.
A press release covering the incident and subsequent activities may be found in the official notices section (http://www.sealandgov.org/notices/pn03106.html).

Knowing the loyalty shown by those across the globe who have supported the Principality, we have added a 'donation' option for persons who might wish to contribute to the reconstruction required. Preliminary estimates put the figure at approximately a million dollars. Any help which can be offered will be most appreciated by those of us who live here and those who hope some day to be able to visit and to share, however briefly, in our way of life.

Government of Sealand
Photos of the Principality of Sealand

Friday, January 12th, 2007, 03:58 AM
For sale: World's smallest country with sea view

By Paul Majendie Tue Jan 9, 8:14 AM ET

LONDON, Jan 8 (Reuters Life!) - For sale: the world's smallest country with its own flag, stamps, currency and passports.

Apply to Prince Michael of Sealand if you want to run your own nation, even if it is just a wartime fort perched on two concrete towers in the North Sea.
Built in World War Two as an anti-aircraft base to repel German bombers, the derelict platform was taken over 40 years ago by retired army major Paddy Roy Bates who went to live there with his family.
He declared the platform, perched seven miles off the east coast of England and just outside Britain's territorial waters, to be the principality of Sealand.
The self-styled Prince Roy adopted a flag, chose a national anthem and minted silver and gold coins.
The family saw off an attempt by Britain's Royal Navy to evict them and also an attempt in 1978 by a group of German and Dutch businessmen to seize Sealand by force.
Roy, 85, now lives in Spain and his son Michael told BBC Radio on Monday his family had been approached by estate agents with clients "who wanted a bit more than a bit of real estate, they wanted autonomy."
He suggested Sealand, which has eight rooms in each tower, could be a base for online gambling or offshore banking.
Asked to describe the delights of living on what he described as a cross between a house and a ship, the 54-year-old said: "The neighbors are very quiet. There is a good sea view."


More info about Sealand:

Sealand, the Non-Country, Up for Sale

From Matt Rosenberg (http://geography.about.com/mbiopage.htm),

Sealand off the British Coast is as Independent as Your Backyard

Paddy Roy Bates is putting his non-country of Sealand up for sale after a 40-year struggle for independence. The Principality of Sealand, located on an abandoned World War II anti-aircraft platform seven miles (11 km) off the English coast, claims that it is a legitimate independent country but that's quite doubtful. In January 2007, the Bates family announced that they were wanting to move on from the challenge of Sealand and placed the tower up for sale. According to media reports, they hope to receive bids in the eight figure range. It remains to be seen who would want to buy a platform that is not a country by any stretch of the imagination.


In 1967, retired British Army major Paddy Roy Bates occupied the abandoned Rough's Tower in the North Sea, northeast of London and opposite the mouth of the Orwell River and Felixstowe. zSB(3,3)
He and his wife discussed independence with British attorneys and subsequently declared independence for the Principality of Sealand on September 2, 1976. Bates called himself Prince Roy and named his wife Princess Joan. They began issuing coins, passports, and stamps for their new country. In support of Sealand's sovereignty, Prince Roy fired warning shots at a buoy repair boat that came close to Sealand. The Prince was charged with unlawful possession and discharge of a firearm by the British government. The Essex court proclaimed that they didn't have jurisdiction over the tower and the British government chose to drop the case due to mockery by the media. That case represents Sealand's entire claim to de facto international recognition as an independent country. (The United Kingdom demolished the only other nearby tower lest others get the idea to also strive for independence.)
Today, only Prince Roy lives on the tower at sixty feet above the sea. Princess Joan's arthritis isn't conducive to living on the North Sea and though the royal family's son, Prince Michael takes care of much of the business for Sealand, he also lives onshore. The Bateses all maintain "dual" citizenship in the United Kingdom and Sealand.
In 2000, Sealand came into the news because a company called HavenCo Ltd planned on operating a complex of Internet servers at Sealand, out of the reach of governmental control. HavenCo gave the Bates $250,000 and stock to lease Rough's Tower and the company has the option to purchase Sealand in the future. This transaction was especially satisfying to the Bates as the maintenance and support of Sealand has been quite expensive over the past 40 years.

An Assessment

There are eight accepted criteria (http://geography.about.com/cs/politicalgeog/a/statenation.htm) used to determine whether an entity is an independent country or not. Let's examine and answer each of the requirements of being an independent country with respect to Sealand and its "sovereignty."
1) Has space or territory which has internationally recognized boundaries.
No. Sealand has no land or boundaries at all, it's a tower built by the British as an anti-aircraft platform during World War II. Certainly, the government of the U.K. can assert that it owns this platform.
Sealand also lies within the United Kingdom's proclaimed 12 nautical mile territorial water limit. Sealand claims that since it asserted its sovereignty before the U.K. extended its territorial waters, it concept of being "grandfathered in" applies. Sealand also claims its own 12.5 nautical mile territorial water.
2) Has people who live there on an ongoing basis. Not really. As of 2000, only one person lives at Sealand and he's going to move out, to be replaced by temporary residents working for HavenCo. Prince Roy maintains his U.K. citizenship and passport, lest he end up somewhere where Sealand's passport isn't recognized. (No countries legitimately recognize the Sealand passport; those who have used such passports for international travel likely encountered an official who didn't care to notice the passport's "country" of origin.)
3) Has economic activity and an organized economy. A State regulates foreign and domestic trade and issues money.
No. HavenCo represents Sealand's only economic activity up to now. While Sealand issued money, there's no use for it beyond collectors. Likewise, Sealand's stamps only have value to a philatelist (stamp collector) as Sealand is not a member of the Universal Postal Union, mail from Sealand can't be sent elsewhere (nor is there much sense in mailing a letter across the tower itself).

4) Has the power of social engineering, such as education. Perhaps. If it had any citizens.
5) Has a transportation system for moving goods and people.
6) Has a government which provides public services and police power.
Yes, but that police power is certainly not absolute. The United Kingdom can assert its authority over Sealand quite easily with a few police officers.
7) Has sovereignty. No other State should have power over the State's territory.
No. The United Kingdom has power over Sealand's territory. The British government was quoted in Wired, "Although Mr. Bates styles the platform as the Principality of Sealand, the U.K. government does not regard Sealand as a state."
8) Has external recognition.
A State has been "voted into the club" by other States. No. No other country recognizes Sealand. An official from the United States Department of State was quoted in Wired, "There are no independent principalities in the North Sea. As far as we are concerned, they are just Crown dependencies of Britain."
The British Home Office was quoted by the BBC that the United Kingdom does not recognize Sealand and, "We've no reason to believe that anyone else recognises it either."
So, Sealand fails on six of eight requirements to be considered an independent country and on the other two requirements, they're qualified affirmatives. Therefore, I think we can safely say that the Principality of Sealand is no more a country than my own backyard.



Sealand's official site:


Friday, January 12th, 2007, 05:24 AM
Created a national anthem and minted coins.

Talk about a fantasizer...