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Offshoring to a Ship in International Waters 800

JasdonLe writes "Sourcing Mag posted an article about Roger Green and David Cook, who hope to avoid US visa regulations that usually accompany outsourcing, with their company SeaCode, and a used cruise ship, sitting in international waters three miles off the coast of Los Angeles.""
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Offshoring to a Ship in International Waters

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  • Misleading summary (Score:3, Informative)

    by smallpaul ( 65919 ) <paul@prescod . n et> on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @11:52PM (#12299564)
    "Visa regulations" do not accompany "outsourcing". Visa regulations accompany the importation of foreign workers. The problems cited with outsourcing are mostly related to distance.
  • Should we wait... (Score:5, Informative)

    by rk ( 6314 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @11:54PM (#12299582) Journal

    until they anchor it three miles off the coast to tell them the US claims territorial waters twelve nautical miles off the coast?

  • by slashdot_commentator ( 444053 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @11:56PM (#12299608) Journal
    No, the U.S. considers the fishing, mineral, and sphere of influence within 100-150 nautical miles. U.S. LAW only applies to within 3 miles to shore. The only thing backing up this position is the 15 carrier taskgroups it can call upon. That's pretty much enough so that the U.N. doesn't want to make an issue of it.
  • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @11:58PM (#12299615)

    "If they'll cruise it through the Bahamas, I know lots of people who'd sign up! ;)"

    To get to the Bahamas from San Diego, they will either need to use the Canal (expensive and not without documentation issues), or round the horn (not as dangerous as in the 18th century, but still quite an adventure).
  • Re:Should we wait... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MasterB(G)ates ( 718264 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:03AM (#12299655)
    yep - check out this info. 3 Miles is wayyy too close []
  • by slashdot_commentator ( 444053 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:05AM (#12299670) Journal
    Humanitarily speaking, since they are not actually in any country, who protects the rights of those 600 laboring software engineers? Does anyone have the authority to make sure that it's not (child) slave labor? No government agency can make sure that working conditions are safe and healthy.

    The International Law of the Sea. But that only covers murder, maiming, kidnapping, etc. Don't think it would cover child labor laws. Basically, outside of territorial waters, any nation can be cowboy cop, but detainees are only subject to international law. And all nations are "bound" to international law. The problem is "Quis custodiet ipso custodes".

  • by heller ( 4484 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:07AM (#12299685) Homepage
    "International Waters" has been 12 nautical miles for like 40 years now. I'm not even going to go look for links since I bet that 30s and google will tell you that.
  • Heh.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:09AM (#12299701) Homepage
    From TFA: Staff can make the three-mile voyage into town in their off hours by calling a water taxi. Or they can spend time shopping in the on-board duty-free shop.

    I've done my fair share of time aboard a ship, and let me just say that anchoring out and taking a ferry (or water taxi, or whatever you want to call the vomit inducing small craft that transport you to and from the port) a "mere three miles," is a much bigger pain in the arse than you might think. If you're lucky, they run once every 30 minutes. In a situation like this, it's more likely to be every hour, or every few hours.

    Do some shopping during the day, and now you'd like to change and grab some dinner and maybe go out? Enjoy catching the ferry back to your boat and then waiting for the next one to get back to land.

    Oh, and that moderate sized TV you just bought? Have fun carrying it up the brow.. not to mention just getting it off the ferry, which is probably using its own power to stay pressed against a barge tied alongside the ship. Oops, you slipped? That's a shame. Dropped your TV in the drink? Hope you have a good credit card company, and they believe you.

    But I guess maybe it's better than the pay and conditions in the country you come from, and I'm just a spoiled American.
  • by Bagheera ( 71311 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:10AM (#12299708) Homepage Journal
    "International waters" don't start three miles off-shore. The US maritime claims are as follows:

    Maritime claims:
    territorial sea: 12 nm
    contiguous zone: 24 nm
    exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
    continental shelf: not specified

    In other words, they'd have to be at least 12 miles from shore, and possibly (depending on who's doing the interpretation) over 200.

    Also, as far as I'm aware, the ship will have to be flagged somewhere, which means that it's effectively that country's territory when in international waters.

    Someones tax man will find them.

  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:23AM (#12299802) Journal
    Only three miles off shore, they must be communicating to land thru a set of multiple pringles cans or something similar.

    It should be pretty easy to get a high power [] and supremely noisy transmitter [] to play havock with this threat to national security [].

    Might even [] make the pringles cans [] go 'POOF' []

  • by mrgriscom ( 721144 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:23AM (#12299811)
    First of all, the 3-nmi line serves only as the boundary between state- and federally-controlled waters. The end of federal jurisdiction and the beginning of International waters actually occurs at the line 12 nautical miles from shore.

    The official 3- and 12-nmi lines are demarcated on the highest-resolution NOAA charts for a particular area. These charts can be hard to find on-line, though it is possible to find certain areas though various state GIS websites and such. I also think the NOAA is systematically making vector data of the lines available.

    In the case of Catalina Island, it has it's own 12-nmi belt of territorial sea, but the space between it and the mainland (so long as it is at least 12 nmi from either shore) is International waters.

    There is a belt extending 24-nmi from shore called the "Contiguous Zone", in which a nation may exercize authority mainly to enforce environment and customs regulations. This area is still considered Internation waters, however.
  • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:31AM (#12299850) Homepage
    But this just seems to be asking for a lot of trouble. Humanitarily speaking, since they are not actually in any country, who protects the rights of those 600 laboring software engineers? Does anyone have the authority to make sure that it's not (child) slave labor? No government agency can make sure that working conditions are safe and healthy.

    All commercial vessels (and perhaps all vessels over a certain size? Not sure about that) are registered to a country ("flagged"). While in international waters, it is subject to that country's laws, including labour laws, and effectively works as a tiny, mobile enclave of that country, legally. When you marry on a ship in international waters, for instance, you are effectively marrying in the coutnry the ship is flagged to.

    Of course, some countries are more lax than others (which is why we have "flags of convenience"). But they are not lawless.

  • by heller ( 4484 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:43AM (#12299914) Homepage
    maybe you should have used your additional 23s to find where noaa mentions reagan signing the 12 mile territorial claim in 1988 giving the US full sovereignty over that area. this was part of the 200 mile claim over fisheries and other rights.
  • by xski ( 113281 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:44AM (#12299925)

    CIA Factbook []

    Maritime claims:
    territorial sea: 12 nm
    contiguous zone: 24 nm
    exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
    continental shelf: not specified
  • Give me a break (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:45AM (#12299928)
    They got the picture of their "ship" [] off a postcard.
  • Re:Should we wait... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:51AM (#12299952)
    Up, no, it's not. The UN Law of the Sea treaty changed the historical 3 nm limit out to 12 nm. The Web link mentions that some US agencies have been authorized to throw their weight out to 24 nm, which is news to me, but the increase in the territorial waters limit and the introduction of the exclusive economic activity zones is change that's existed for at least several decades de facto in the U.S., internationally legalized by the 1994 treaty.
  • Re:All well and good (Score:3, Informative)

    by misleb ( 129952 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:52AM (#12299955)
    I'm pretty sure they would be pretty safe that far out. They'd only notice a swell. The wave doesn't break until it gets to shore or shallow water.

  • Re:Should we wait... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2005 @01:03AM (#12300009)
    I thought it was worth adding that miles are different than nautical miles. A nautical mile is based on the circumference of the Earth, a minute of arc on the planet Earth is 1 nautical mile.
    1 nautical mile = 1.1508 miles
  • by btarval ( 874919 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @01:07AM (#12300025)
    "You can't simply shut down your propulsion system and drift in the sea lanes three miles off the LA coast."

    If they are really talking about 200 miles out to sea (outside of the U.S. Economic Zone), yes, you can indeed shut down and drift as long as you want.

    Inside, you can do the same, as long as you're not in a navigation channel. That covers a lot of territory, but then they'd be subject to other U.S. laws, which is what I think they want to avoid.

    Heck, off the port of Humbolt on the Northern Californian coast, way out to sea, the ships actually ANCHOR out there, waiting for a spot to dock. It's a pretty odd site when you come up to them in the fog; it looks like a fleet out in the middle of the ocean.
  • by evilb ( 86521 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @01:07AM (#12300027)
    And what VISA are they going to use to gain enterance to the US?

    A tourist visa, I'm guessing. It's (relatively) easy to get permission to travel in the US (for most countries, anyway). Getting permission to work here (H-1B visa) is a lot more difficult.
  • Re:Tax Issues (Score:2, Informative)

    by innocent_white_lamb ( 151825 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @01:24AM (#12300098)
    I'm nobody's idea of an accountant, but it's my understanding that this is a more-or-less unique feature of US citizenship -- you get to pay taxes to the US government regardless of where you actually live or earn that income.

    I don't think this applies to (for example) Canadian citizens. If a Canadian citizen lives in, say, France, and earns his income there then I don't think the Canadian government tries to claim any taxes from him.
  • Re:Sure, sure, (Score:4, Informative)

    by dhovis ( 303725 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @01:29AM (#12300118)

    You owe me a new keyboard.

    For those who don't get the reference: Snow Crash, by Neil Stephenson. BTW: the audiobook version from is excellent. The narrator has just the right attitude and vocalization for that book.

  • Re:Tax Issues (Score:3, Informative)

    by patio11 ( 857072 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @02:07AM (#12300285)
    It also happens to Aussies, Swedes, Brits, and Kiwis, and Irish -- and thats just my direct experience. Some nations have tax treaties with each other where you can claim an exemption to prevent the same income from being taxed twice.
  • Why bother? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2005 @02:09AM (#12300294)
    As someone who works for a large cruise company (Carnival is just another name for circus), they really don't have to pay too much attention to US government visa regulations. Carnival doesn't.

    What Carnival does is to cycle employees through the Miami head office (whoa, that's not the HEAD office, for tax purposes, of course, it's just where... well, all the heads are) and the employees will do "training" for six weeks or a month and then, maybe, go visit a ship for an afternoon to collect their "training pay."

    Of course, they don't work on the ship, and they are staying in a hotel in Miami, sometimes for two years at a stretch, but that's one way that Carnival employees people.

    When it becomes inconvenient to even pay this lipservice to the rules, they don't. Illegal foreign employees are a dime a dozen. And H1B's? Don't even consider them -- they're passe, Carnival uses nothing but the latest worker visas allowing "training."

    Two floors of lawyers means that Carnival doesn't have to obey the same rules that everybody else does.

    And no, they don't pay taxes on the vast, vast majority of their earnings. Hey, it wasn't earned in the US. And their "head office" is in Panama. Welcome to America.

  • Re:Should we wait... (Score:3, Informative)

    by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @02:14AM (#12300327)
    Even if they remained twelve miles off the coast it would not be long before this ship had an 'accident' that resulted in the unfortunate sinking of the ship. The US Coast Guard would be on hand to rescue and deport the programmers and that would be the official story. Of course, everyone with more than two rocks rattling around upstairs would realize that the whole affair was no 'accident' and would take the hint. The point is that countries, especially the United States, do not suffer such insolence even from other nations much less a bunch of non-citizens hanging around offshore in a boat.
  • Re:Tax Issues (Score:2, Informative)

    by Jimmy The Leper ( 734441 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @02:20AM (#12300352)
    Not so, I'm doing a co-op term for university in California next term and I will have to pay taxes to both the US and Canada. The only good thing is that I can deduct taxes paid to the US from my Canadian taxes.
  • by DABANSHEE ( 154661 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @02:23AM (#12300372)
    Foreign registed ships have the right to employ foreigners without local visas, within both the 200 mile economic zone & the 12 mile line.

  • by DABANSHEE ( 154661 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @02:30AM (#12300399)
    Foreign registed ships have the right to employ foreigners without local visas, within both the 200 mile economic zone & the 12 mile line

    As they'd be working for the ship's owners they'd be consided ships crew regardless of what they do. Just as when a ships' owner comes aboard with his own personal staff for a trip, or the owners' fleet management people are onboard on a trip, they have the same status as ships' crew when in foreign waters & ports.
  • by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @02:41AM (#12300451)
    Even when US visas are concerned, getting a B (tourist/business) one is trivial. You just submit your application, pay a fee and that's it. No interviews, no need to provide a stack of paperwork, invitations or anything. And, you get it for 10 years outright.

    On the other hand, getting any other kind of US visa is a very hard, long process. Getting my F1 took many months and several trips to the embassy (a >5 hours long trip for me, then a day spent in a queue, followed by 5h for returning home). I had to submit an invitation, a number of papers from US offices, papers from my home university, and so on, so on. And once on American soil, I had additional paperwork to do -- like the entry card you have to keep with you and return on your way out. All for a short stay for a research project I missed the most of because of visa-related delays.

    Now, compare it to the wave-your-passport kind of security required for B visas...
  • by davesag ( 140186 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @02:43AM (#12300454) Homepage
    exactly right, thus clearly showing this is all just some sort of 21c slave ship. they could easily lure young Indian and Asian developers with promises of big money etc and then when on board they take their passports and voila - commence oppression. I've seen the same thing happen in restaurants. There was a case of a restaurant in Adelaide where the entire kitchen staff had been brought over to Australia and then enslaved with the threat of prison and routine physical intimidation by the ruthless restaurant owners. Just look at the volume of people-trafficing that goes on, 1,000's of young girls are adbucted and sold into sex-slavery and shipped from one end of the earth to another like so many marks-n-spencers boardroom sandwich packs.

    Imho human beings have no limit to the evil they can do, but their capacity for goodness is capped by their widening culture of self interest. Lies have become as relevant as truths for most people. No-one really gives a shit about Iraq or Afghanistan, or people being boiled alive in Uzbekistan or whatever the fuck other horrible thing is happening out there. The peaking of oil, the rise of the neocons, a pope who was a member of the hitler youth! climate change, species die-off, blah blah blah. [[[allows sputtering rage to subside - grabs ipod and gets on bike, it's a beautiful day outside.]]]

  • by drrdam ( 877780 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:34AM (#12300609) Homepage
    >And what VISA are they going to use to gain enterance to the
    > US? The article contradicts itself on this point:
    It is called "crew and transit" C1/D visa; they are put into a seaman's passport (special kinds of passports used by sailors).

    Shipping and fishing companies have been using cheap 3rd world labour for decades; think about huge floating factories that prepare and package fish offloaded by trawlers.

    By the way, a US company can register their ship anywhere they see fit, e.g. Panama or some other tax heaven...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:41AM (#12300633)
    As was aluded to in the parent post, getting a tourist visa is only trivial if you come from certain countries. Try getting one as a Chilean, for example. You do have to have an interview at the US consulate, and unless you have a steady, well paying job there, have money in the bank, and either substantial property, or something similar that indicates that you will return, the US simply won't give you even a tourist visa. My ex GF in Chile tried many times to get a tourist visa to visit me in the US, but was denied, because she was still a university student, without a good job. This wasn't an isolated case, either. I lived in Chile for a while, and many Chileans there told me how their applications for US tourist visas had been turned down.
  • by nietsch ( 112711 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:43AM (#12300639) Homepage Journal
    UV lighting would kill your plants in no time. chlorophile absorbs in the visible spectrum, the most around the yellow wavelength IIRC.

    Besides, you can just grow pot in your own backyard, or some out-of-sight land nobody seems to care about/look after.

    Or if you want it more expensive: do the indoor cultivation thing and only use the stuff for yourself, lots of people do it that way.
  • Re:Tax Issues (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2005 @04:09AM (#12300724)
    That is incorrect.
    Sweden does not tax its citizens if they live abroad.
    Sweden do tax residents regardless of citizenship IF they live in Sweden and if they spend >6 months pwer taxation years inside the country.

    If you live in Sweden and are employed by a swedish company and have your salary paid out to your bank account in Sweden BUT you have been on business trips (or on a long contract) so that you have spent >6 months during the taxation year outside of the country you have to file a special form and hand in to the tax office and all your tax on your swedish salary will be paid back to you at the end of the taxation year.

    If you live outside of sweden and you work outside of sweden, they dont even want to know about you.

    Swedish citizens living abroad do NOT need to file any tax forms since sweden do not tax citizens living abroad. they ONLY tax residents (and citizens) that live inside of sweden for more than 6 months per year.

    The US, citizens pay tax regardless of where they live or whether they have visited the US recently is something unique to the US.

    This tax refund is VERY popular by ericsson employees that go on a temporary contract to some other country since all the tax they pay on their swedish income is returned after the taxation year (and after they have prooved they have been outside the country for the requyired period).
  • by SEE ( 7681 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @05:21AM (#12300901) Homepage
    The Convention on the Law of the Sea prohibits four classes of crimes on the high seas (that is, in so-called international waters):

    1) Transportation of slaves
    2) Piracy (private acts of violence, detention, or depredation)
    3) Illicit traffic in narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances
    4) Unauthorized broadcasting

    Now, only 1 and 2 allow a boarding by any nation regardless of the ship's flag (though 4 allows any nation receiving the signals or interference from them to board). However, all countries are obligated to cooperate in the supression of all four; somebody will call your ship's flag country and get their cooperation.

    What if your ship isn't under any country's flag? Well, ships without nationality are subject to boarding at any time by any nation, merely for being without nationality.

    On the oceans, the only times you are not subject to the laws of one country are when you're subject to the laws of more than one country; the only times you are not subject to the laws of a specific country or countries is when you are subject to the laws of any country.
  • by DavidTC ( 10147 ) <<moc.xobreven> ... .vidavsxd54sals>> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @07:17AM (#12301184) Homepage
    Yeah, I think people are confused as to how 'international waters' works.

    Ships have to sale under the flag of a nation. If they do so, they are legally part of that nation, and have to heave to and let the coast guard and navy of that nation board. They can be punished for crimes committed.

    It's just that a lot of crimes are state or local crimes in the US, and don't exist at sea, and of course unless you're on a cruise ship, there's no one to enforce laws anyway. But try to get away with murder and claim you're in international waters...

    The other option is to sale under no flag. At which point you're a pirate vessel, you can't dock anywhere except a few quasilegal ports, and not only can any military board you, they can legally just sink you if they feel like it. (Legally according to international law, that is. Possibly not according to their own law.)

  • by richieb ( 3277 ) <[richieb] [at] []> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @07:37AM (#12301240) Homepage Journal
    Apparently, they have plans for 600 software engineers on this ship. Their major point of having them on the ship appears to be that they can maintain low costs to produce software, while only being 3.1 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. I am assuming they don't have to pay corporate taxes to any entity.

    I heard about this on NPR yesterday. They are incorporated in California, so in fact they will be paying California and US taxes. However, they don't have to pay for their employees health care, social security or unemployment insurance...

  • by onepoint ( 301486 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @09:18AM (#12301777) Homepage Journal
    Diesel is the fuel for emergencies and some odd equipment that can not run the heavy fuel.
    the heavy fuel is called Bunker and the one of the grades is called #6 ( there is also grade c from the gulf )

    Number 6 fuel oil is a thick, syrupy, black, tar-like liquid. It smells like tar, and may even become semi-solid in cooler temperatures. No. 6 fuel oil, also known as bunk oil, bunker oil, or black liquor, is a petroleum product consisting of a complicated mix of hydrocarbons with high boiling points. It is a "leftover", or residual product of crude oil after the more valuable hydrocarbons have been removed.

    this product is priced at about 200 to 400 per ton.

  • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @09:22AM (#12301804)
    "Staff can make the three-mile voyage into town in their off hours by calling a water taxi."

    I smell something rotten here. Specifically the usage of the word "staff".

    I smell a number of things rotten here, including the fact that the "entrepreneur" (or article writer) hasn't a fucking clue about international waters, which extend twelve miles from shore, not 3. This is the 21st century, not the 19th, and maritime law may not have changed much, but the definition of "international waters" has.
  • by jonatha ( 204526 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @09:34AM (#12301876)
    I paid over $10K in Federal Income Taxes last year, $3600 in Social Security Taxes, and $860 in Medicare taxes

    Your numbers don't add up.

    $3600 in OASDI implies a W-2 taxable income of just over $58K (3600/.062 = 58064); $860 in Medicare gives one of just over $59K (860/.0145 =59310). Let's use the higher figure.

    You mention a "family", so I conclude you are married. Let's assume no kids. Standard deduction for married filing jointly is $9700, plus $6200 in exemptions gives taxable income of $43410, tax of $5799.

    Perhaps meal/housing allowances aren't taxable for FICA but are for FIT. MFJ tax bill of $10K implies taxable income of at least $66K, or adjusted gross of at least $81,900, which would make the allowances $38,500/year or over $3K/month, which seems high to me.

    Did you have a boatlaod of capital gains, perhaps?

  • by XSforMe ( 446716 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @10:58AM (#12302550)
    getting a B (tourist/business) one is trivial.

    Oh man, I wish that would be universally truth, but the sad fact is that if you have a third world citizenship, getting to visit the US can be a very problematic challenge.

    To get a B toursit visa if you are Mexican you must pay in order to make an appointment(around 10 US per appointment), pay in order to have an 10 minute interview (around 100 US per applicant), have a hefty bank account, have a steadily paying job, account for every detail of your life, and waste an entire morning / evening waiting to talk to the US inmigration officer.

    Even if you quallify all of the above there is no guarantee you will obtain the visa. Of course if you do not get the visa all of the fees you paid are nonrefundable (man, I can almost hear the laughter of the embassy employees after rejecting 2 out of every 3 applicants). If, by any chance, you do get approved, you will additionally have to pay the delivery cost of the visas to your home (around 25 US per visa).

    The only reason why I even submitted for this ridiculous process is in order to get my toddler to visit Disneyland. It is now my policy to avoid trips to the US unless they are absolutely necesary.

Civilization, as we know it, will end sometime this evening. See SYSNOTE tomorrow for more information.