By Shane McGinley
Arab investors keen on Sealand which is in international waters; declared independent in 1967
An abandoned World War II manmade navy fort located off the coast of south-east England has attracted interest from unnamed Arab investors keen to lease its facilities, Arabian Business understands.
In 1942 the British government built several Fort Roughs off the coast of Essex in order to guard the country from a German invasion and it was proclaimed "a sovereign nation" by its inhabitants who claimed it 25 years later.
Comprising a floating pontoon base, a superstructure of two hollow towers were joined by a deck upon which structures could be added, such as a gun deck, an upper deck and a central tower unit.
One of these forts was located in international waters and on September 2, 1967 a former English major Paddy Roy Bates formally claimed one of the forts, settled with his family, declared the newly named Sealand a nation in its own right and even printed its own passports and coins.
Bates and his family declared themselves the sovereign rulers of Sealand and set up residence on the manmade fort.
In the 90s an internet firm also was established on the fort, offering users from around the world secure servers in which to store their data. While the Internet venture did not take off and the fort was damaged in a 2006 fire, Sealand was put up for sale in 2007 by Michael Bates, Paddy Roy’s son.
A Spanish estate agency valued Sealand at €750m ($963m) in 2007 and Michael Bates told Arabian Business this week he had received interest from unnamed Arab investors but he was reluctant to let go of this controversial piece of British history.
“We have no plans to sell right now although there was interest from Arabia,” he said. “Any business propositions are of interest to us,” he added.
One obstacle Arab investors would also face is Sealand’s much disputed legal status. In fact, the history of the manmade structure reads just like the script of a farfetched Hollywood blockbuster.
In the 1967, after negotiations with English lawyers, Paddy Roy Bates proclaimed the island his own state and himself as its absolute sovereign ruler, declaring himself and his wife Prince Roy and Princess Joan of the Principality of Sealand. In 1968 the British navy attempted to reclaim Sealand but were turned away when the Bates fired warning shots.
A decade later, Professor Alexander G. Achenbach, the Bates’ appointed Prime Minister, along with some Dutch businessmen, attempted a coup and also kidnapped Paddy Roy’s son Michael.
Paddy Roy, employing the services of some of his own men, later reclaimed Sealand and his son and imprisoned the captives as prisoners of war.
This led to protests by the German and Dutch Governments for their citizens to be released and Paddy Roy eventually relented after diplomatic discussions with German officials and released the prisoners under the requirements of the Geneva Convention.
Sealand can accommodate up to ten people but generally only security staff and a caretaker live on the island. Michael Bates stated that a sovereignty of a nation cannot be sold, therefore any potential buyers or investors will be obtaining leasehold or buying a tenancy.
In 2009, Sealand also announced its own Football Association and played a number of demonstration matches with its team members including well-known British comedy actor Ralf Little.
Last year, Sealand was also proposed as the site for a new online casino venture but the future of Sealand has been thrown into doubt after its long-time founder Paddy Roy died in October 2012.
With interest from potential investors, including those from the Arab region, it will be interesting to see what happens now as Sealand enters the next stage of development in its unique history.
Unlikely to proceed as Sealand is now in UK territorial waters....
In 1987, the UK extended its territorial waters from three to twelve miles. Sealand now sits inside waters that Britain claims as its territory.The United Kingdom is one of 162 states to sign the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (in force since 1994), which states in part V, article 60, that: "Artificial islands, installations and structures do not possess the status of islands. They have no territorial sea of their own, and their presence does not affect the delimitation of the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf." In the opinion of law academic John Gibson, "because Sealand was man-made there was little chance that it would be recognised as a nation
It will be very interesting to see who Sealands next occupants are.
PPM, that convention you refer to might not be applicable to structures built so long ago, in the `40`s.
Consider the rights of the Territorial Waters of Palestine; the israelis only formed their statelet in 1947, but the Palestinian fishermen get shot if they go out more than a few miles.
It would be interesting to read what Roy had to say regarding his Territorial Waters, and what of the gas fields?