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BC’s Tales of the Pacific |  Old cruise ships given new lives as condos

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HERE at the column, we have kept an eye on the declining cruise industry.

Covid-19 has proven deadly not just to humans, but to many industries as well. Tourism is hurting, hotels and restaurants are on life support. We can all agree that many segments of the modern economy will not be here in the post-Covid world. If the cruise industry survives, it will be reduced and reimagined. But what to do with all the cruise ships that are being retired and taken out of service?

Most large companies are granting early retirement to their vessels. Normally, a ship could extend its working life by being sold to a smaller cruise company, one that ran smaller routes in out-of-the-way places. But most smaller operators are folding up. They simply aren’t there to absorb the ships that larger companies no longer want.

Until now, the answer had been the scrapyard. Ship breakers in Turkey and India have reaped a large harvest of retired cruise ships. Their beaches are littered with ships waiting to be taken apart. But entrepreneurs have found another, more noble purpose. Housing.

A company called Ocean Builders has purchased the cruise ship Pacific Dawn with the purpose of turning it into a floating community in the Gulf of Panama. Chad Elwartowski, a pioneer in Seasteading, is spearheading the effort. He says, “We look forward to creating a hub for technology and innovation here in Panama. Our goal is to figure out how to live sustainably on the sea and chart new waters in this new frontier.”

Elwartowski and the rest of the Ocean Builders team hopes that the cruise ship turned condominium complex will attract young, adventurous entrepreneurs, especially those in the field of information technology. They envision Pacific Dawn as a hub of technology and research, not just in oceanography.

The plan is to sell many of the cabins as personal condos and to keep some of the cabins for visitors. All services necessary for life, such as laundry and housekeeping, will be available and the restaurants will stay open both for residents and guests. Other entertainment venues such as movie theaters and concert halls, along with office space, will also be available. In short, everything a person needs to live a normal, healthy life, albeit one at sea, will be there.

Buyers will acquire full ownership of the cabin and enjoy the rights and privileges similar to those that own condominiums on land. They will pay a monthly fee to cover operating expenses and will be subject to condo-style rules. The plan is to eventually sell over seven hundred cabins for a total live-aboard population of two thousand people.

Elwartowski adds, “Our idea for families with children is to buy a balcony or ocean view room for the parents and purchase a cheaper interior room across the hall for the children. We would like to think of your cabin as your bedroom while your living room is the rest of the ship.” Those who buy two adjacent cabins may connect them using doors, provided there is no bulkhead between them.

Several months ago, we discussed the possibility of floating cities at sea. Pacific Dawn is a huge step in that direction. Although the ship will have a permanent anchorage in the Gulf of Panama, just a few miles from the entrance to the canal, there is nothing to stop it from travelling around. If successful, it could be first of many such ship-based communities, each the size of a small city.

Could this be a partial answer to population pressures worldwide? Could this provide a useful alternative to scrapping hundreds of unwanted cruise ships? Is life on the water sustainable? Ocean Builders, you have our attention. I cannot wait to see where you go with this.

 

 

 

BC Cook, PhD lived on Saipan and has taught history for 20 years. He currently resides on the mainland U.S.

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