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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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  • Dumb idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman&gmail,com> on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @11:50PM (#12299536) Homepage Journal
    Dumbest idea EVER. I do not understand this infatuation with outsourcing professional workers. You can't tell me it's anywhere near as cost effective as they're making it out to be. (My own experience says otherwise.) I smell another crash of DotCom proportions...

    But if they're going to do this thing, they should at least do it in style []. By utilizing an inexpensive aircraft carrier [] they could at least send these people home for occasional weekends and vacations. Under the proposed plan, they're basically prisoners on the ship unless they can manage to get a Visa to enter the country. Which, of course, negates the entire point of not messing with H1-Bs. And how do they think the government is going to react to having these people parked right off our shore? (Hmm... maybe they could refit the guns on the old carrier to keep the coast guard off their backs.)

    Did I mention that this is a dumb idea?
  • Hmmm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ta bu shi da yu ( 687699 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @11:53PM (#12299569) Homepage
    ... I wonder what the tax implications for the workers are. And what happens if a crime is committed in International Waters? What about a guarantee of workplace safety and anti-discrimination policy?

    I see lots of problems here.
  • by TerryMathews ( 57165 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @11:56PM (#12299600)
    This won't last. Fed and State of Cali won't like a busniess operating outside its jurisdiction and will make their lives a living hell...

    Buying stuff on the ship? Customs time. Don't forget, the DEA will have to check your luggage as well.

    Want to go home? Sure thing, we'll just need to make sure your passport is in order. What, you didn't bring a passport? You did know you were leaving the country, right?
  • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:00AM (#12299629)

    >How about outsourcing to The Principality of

    You can't accommodate 500 people in Sealand, and you can't take control of it. A cruise ship on the other hand, affords a broad range of possibilities. It can also be motherf*cking expensive to operate. When's the last time you negotiated a contract for diesel fuel in TONS?
  • by ShaniaTwain ( 197446 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:04AM (#12299661) Homepage
    Picture the Love Boat with a timecard. 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.

    ..and golly! don't that just sound like a little slice of heaven? living at work, buying stuff from work... Just like the Love Boat you say? Sign me up!
  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:09AM (#12299703) Journal
    Like these managers would let them go to the US.

    I bet these workers were searched to make sure they would have no passports so they would be forced to stay under slave labor
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman&gmail,com> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:13AM (#12299745) Homepage Journal
    That was my thought as well, but then I realized that they're going to need a LOT of diesel just to keep the lights on. On land, you'd sinply run off the grid. But on a boat, their entire power capacity is going to be supplied by the ships engines or generators. Those aren't quite as power hungry as when the ship is under power, but with the number of electronic toys they're going to need, it's not going to be cheap either.
  • Re:Dumb idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EnronHaliburton2004 ( 815366 ) * on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:15AM (#12299754) Homepage Journal
    I smell another crash of DotCom proportions...

    So do we my friend.

    Just remember, when you see businesses going out of business after outsourcing their workers, make sure you hammer in the point by saying something like "I TOLD YOU SO DUMBASS!" and humilating the corporate officers in public.

    Outsourcing is a numbers game: It appear that you are saving money because the labor is cheaper, and the cost of labor is written down in the corporate financials. However, you LOSE money because of the inefficiency, which is harder to pin down.
  • Baloney (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dpud1234 ( 771892 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:18AM (#12299773)
    This must be a fake ....

    Notice how their first "Company News" lists an Article-FORBES with no link. If you go to and search their site for "SeaCode" you get: "Sorry, your search for SeaCode did not return any Documents. Please revise your search and try again."

    Besides, 3.1 miles makes no sense as your not in international waters.
  • by Holi ( 250190 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:18AM (#12299776)
    Since the company is incorporated in California, I am sure they will be paying taxes in the US. It has more to do with skirting immigration laws and visas then evading taxes. That, and OSHA requirements and wage laws.
  • by TGK ( 262438 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:33AM (#12299858) Homepage Journal
    If I were them I wouldn't be exploiting the lack of labor laws. You can only expect people to be so productive in something as fundamentaly brain draining as CS if you run them into the ground.

    The lawlessness I'd exploit would be COPYRIGHT. Seriously.... the MPAA and the RIAA have been successfull in shutting down or going after distribution networks, never the root uploaders or the downloaders.

    Set up a blatently illegal server system well off shore, enjoy the benefits of satellite based internet access. Sell movies and music an pennies on the dollar at high quality....


    oh yea....

    3. Profit!

  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman&gmail,com> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:53AM (#12299962) Homepage Journal
    Umm... no. The ship, being of US registry, can be confiscated and searched by US authorities. Not to mention that the US *has* enforced its borders beyond its 3 mile claim in the past.
  • by musakko ( 739094 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:55AM (#12299972)
    Staff can make the three-mile voyage into town in their off hours by calling a water taxi.

    Hmm. Since the whole idea is to avoid immigration laws/cost of getting visas, then these people won't be catching the water taxi into town as often as they think..

  • by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <{tms} {at} {}> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @01:01AM (#12300001) Homepage
    Look, if you can't compete with third-world technical labor, that's YOUR problem. Nobody owes you a thing in this country.

    Corporations owe their existence to the state. Capitalists owe their ability to own such artifical property as copyright, patents, and resource exploitation rights, to the state.

    In a democracy, the state owes its existance to the people. (Not individually, obviously, but en masse.)

    Therefore, corporations indirectly owe their existance and capitalists indirectly owe their riches to the people.

    If we're going to allow our government to funnel economic power into the hands to a few and to create legal monsters that are capable only of seeking profit, it's sensible for us to demand that it keep them leashed. That includes demanding employment practices that are not a race to the bottom.

    (The better alternative, of course, would be to altogether get rid of the state's power to enrich capitalists and charter corporations [].)

  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @01:13AM (#12300045)
    Within the EEZ, the coastal state has jurisdiction with regard to establishing and using artificial islands, installations, and structures having economic purposes as well as for marine scientific research... exclusive economic zone []

    I rather doubt the Coast Guard or Navy will have any difficulty claiming jurisdiction over a vessel that is more or less permenently "anchored" within 200 miles of the U.S. coast.

  • by NerveGas ( 168686 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @01:17AM (#12300061)

    You get to live on a cruise ship in international waters, and work "below the radar", so to speak. What a great way to lie low until the heat cools off. Shoot, forget running there AFTER the feds are looking for you, it seems like a great place from which to RUN all kinds of criminal activity.

  • by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @01:20AM (#12300075) Homepage Journal
    With the workers being 3.1 miles off of one of the biggest media laden metropolitan areas of the world, I doubt these people are going to try and hide very much.

    Can YOU swim 3.1 miles across the pacific?

    If they're in international waters, no authority can punish them for any infraction.

    It doesn't matter if they're close to LA. They're untouchable.

    They seem to be pretty open about what they have going on, but the point here is that they COULD do all sorts of nasty things there.

  • by WebCrapper ( 667046 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @01:24AM (#12300093)
    " for almost nothing in exchange for having no taxes, no expenses and no home to maintane."

    Gee, you just described the US Military...
  • by loudici ( 27971 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @01:35AM (#12300139) Homepage
    sailing the ship to india seems a bit expensive. on the other hand if they stay a few miles off of LA, the indian coders will need to fly into LA, get admitted into the US, and then take a boat to their cruise ship. something tells me the immigration officers at LAX will not like that.

    in addition to that, if they want to go anywhere once they are on the ship they have to either enter the US without a visa, which is a felony and will get you banned for 10 years, or find a way to get a visa while on the ship. good luck!
  • by ikkonoishi ( 674762 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @01:47AM (#12300203) Journal
    Nah nuclear all the way.

    Follow the lead of the US Aircraft carriers aka "The cities that float"
  • by Fulcrum of Evil ( 560260 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @02:10AM (#12300305)

    well, yeah, theoretically. but is this the way to treat the engines of a cruise ship? and how long will it take to regain control of your vessel when you need it?

    Plus: the open sea isn't a nice place for machinery - if you leave the engines off for a month, what are the odds that they won't start again? Who wants to play that game when spare parts are potentially days away?

  • Re:Baloney (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:27AM (#12300593)
    Yah, I can't understand how anyone is buying this crap. The logistics simply don't work. Cruise ships cannot remain offshore -- not even 200 feet offshore -- for more than a few weeks. You can't reprovision these things with tenders. You can't scrape and paint the bottom with dolphins. It's a giant expense for no particular purpose. A cruise ship costs many many many millions of dollars a year to operate, just sitting there.

    Nobody can quite figure out what restrictions they're avoiding 3.1 miles offshore anyways. Their chart shows them INSHORE of Catalina Island, for god's sake. They're in Los Angeles County.

    These guys are scamming the press, and laughing their asses off.
  • by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:45AM (#12300641) Journal
    For Indians (or other 3rd worlders) a B visa is *also* very difficult to get. When I lived in the US, I had a few Indian friends whose younger family members coulnd't visit simply because (in particular) young third-worlders have a lot of difficulty getting any kind of visa. Older family members were OK (probably because they were judged to be settled and unlikely to be an illegal immigration risk).

    This ship will be filled with young third worlders who will have severe difficulty getting a B visa, especially when their home address is a ship.
  • A matter of trust (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @04:15AM (#12300739) Homepage
    Would you do bussiness with a company that tries hard to screw over their government?
  • by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @04:18AM (#12300747)
    So you go out to the tanker, get your stuff, cruise around for a couple of days fishing and getting blasted. Once you're out of "supplies", you head home. So what if they search you?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2005 @04:26AM (#12300771)
    And I keep thinking of the "Crimson Permanent Assurance Company" sketch from 'The Meaning of Life'...
  • Location (Score:3, Insightful)

    by richieb ( 3277 ) <richieb&gmail,com> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @07:39AM (#12301247) Homepage Journal
    If you are going to be on a ship, why not stay 3 miles of the coast of Bermuda?!

  • by EinarH ( 583836 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @08:13AM (#12301416) Journal
    Ships often use cheaper bunker oil instead of diesel so it might even work out to their advantage.
    I think you are wrong here. They can't bunker all they need ashore as a cruise ship is designet for a capacity around two weeks. Have you seen the rates on supply ships lately? I don't know about Gulf of Mexico or California but in the Noth Sea you had to pay ~$15000 a day last week for a "decent sizeed" supply ship. Even if they only need to hire such a ship for a couple of days each month (for oil, diesel, food etc.)it would quickly eat up much of their profit.

    And how about bandwith? The best thing would be to rent a T3, if that is enough, and lay a cable. But subsea stuff like that is quite expensive.

    And I doubt they could get away with the 3 nm distance. More like 12 nm.

    How about security and piracy. Did they think about that? Doubt so. And safety regulations? On both oil platforms and cruise ships everyone that works there needs to take a (two?) weeks safety course. Lots of $ there too.

    What about waste/sewage? I'm sure the supply ship can handle that too. Only $15000.

    And how long do they think coders are willing to stay on this ship before they _need_ some R&R? I'd say max 4 weeks. What then? How do they get visas so they can visit LA? And how do they get back to LA anyway? What about productivity and retaining workers?

    This is a shitty idea.

  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @08:25AM (#12301477)
    Summary: corporations owe to the state, state owes to the people, and so corporation owe to the people.

    The logic needs to go a bit further bit further -- where do the people get their riches? Without employers (mostly corporations), the people would have no money. Without consumer goods makers and retailers (mostly corporations), the money paid by a job would have no value. So the people owe their riches to the corporations and we have come full circle.

    The point is that economies are mutually dependent networks with no simple linear chain of who owes whom. I'm not saying the current balance of power is right, only that people are dependent on corporations and corporations are dependent on people.

    Seeking profit does not necessitate a race to the bottom on wages. Henry Ford knew that if he could make his workforce more productive he would both create wealthier workers and create a product those workers could afford. Ford paid higher wages than other companies at the time and was rewarded with high productivity. Ford also designed systems to make those worker vary productive so that the amount of high-wage cost per car was low and the car was affordable to a great many people (including Ford's own workers).

    If any company or country wants to compete on the world market its need to find a way to create more value than costs. Yes, cut-rate wages can avoid costs and some companies try to go that route, but it is a dead end. Smarter companies find a way to create greater value per unchanged unit of cost (Ford actual increased wages) and then use greater productivity, greater efficiency, and better products to create extraordinary value.
  • by WWWWolf ( 2428 ) <> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @09:13AM (#12301749) Homepage
    If international waters start 3 miles out, I'm sure you can name a few radio technologies that have no trouble covering more distance than that.

    Yes, but if you're doing something "nasty" with this thing, the problem is, you can practically only use them if you're sitting on the shore. The moment you try to get this thing to the public Internet, nasty people come and pull the plug, probably - since the router is under their juridisdiction.

    This is really why data havens haven't caught on. You can keep data in, but if you annoy the wrong people, you can't get data out unless you go there in person.

  • by tarsi210 ( 70325 ) <> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @10:12AM (#12302155) Homepage Journal
    Conversely, would you do business with a company that leverages every advantage that they legally can to provide the best services at the lowest prices?

    Like it or not, offshoring is legal. Business often lets morality and ethics and so forth take a back seat to the bottom line and that's where many go off their tree about offshoring, not about its legitimate use in the business model. Employees are out to save their ass, and employers are out to save theirs. When you get to something like offshoring, you're talking about certain employees unable to save their ass because the employer is saving theirs.

    What we really need is a better way to play the game, as employees, so that offshoring is either a) no longer appealing or b) no longer a threat to us. Note the differences in those two statements. Either developers need to make it so that offshoring is unappealing -- by developing better, smarter, faster, etc. -- or by making the threat of offshoring inapplicable to our state as employees, probably by developing skills, abilities, and knowledge that make no sense to offshore.

    Now, HOW to do this is not something I've come up with. :) But that's my thoughts on it -- we, as developers, have to start playing a better game because I doubt offshoring is going anywhere.
  • it may not matter (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cahiha ( 873942 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @10:15AM (#12302176)
    Yes, the US can enforce laws out further than that. On the other hand, you don't need a work visa if you work on a ship that just happens to anchor in territorial waters.

    How this falls out depends on what politicians make of it. They can prohibit this sort of conduct and send the coast guard to send the ship packing, or they can actually view it as a reasonable political compromise that doesn't force them to touch the H1b issue one way or another.

    I suspect that, if this ever were to become a big thing commercially, inaction and silent toleration would be the preferred course for most politicians. Only if it looked like it became a media debacle would they likely start acting.
  • Re:A haha. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tibike77 ( 611880 ) <tibikegamez@yahoo. c o m> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @10:55AM (#12302524) Journal
    If you're BOTH hard working and knowledgeable, nobody would dare take away your job. Problem is you're maybe not one of the two you mentioned you are...
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @12:27PM (#12303385)
    People get wealth from work. Workers are the source of all wealth.

    The second sentence does not follow from the first, assuming that the first is even true. The output of any given individual worker is not really worth anything unless that worker (or someone connected to that worker) can find a market or consumer of their work product. In an idyllic era of agrarian output or simple hand-crafted products, it may have been possible for individual workers to sell their individual work. But the increasing sophistication of both products and services in the modern world mean that individual workers are valueless without some entity to coordinate, connect, and manage a grouo of workers who each contribute an individually value-less effort to a collectively-valueable output. As governments have proven horribly inept at managing workforces, it falls on the shoulders of managers in corporations to provide that valuable service. What corporations do is create an organized structure that efficiently connects workers to work and work output to markets.

    If corporations really were mere leaches, why wouldn't workers leave and go into business for themselves? In a world in which corporations add no value, any individual worker would be able to undercut the price charged by a corporation because that worker would not have to add the leach's fees and profits into the price. The answer is three-fold. First, many workers do start small businesses that grow and inevitably recreate the corporate structure of management and workers. Second, some work is not individualizable -- building an automobile requires the coordinated effort of hundreds or thousands of people. In this case, corporations provide value in management. Third, individuals often lack capital for equipment, start-up costs, etc. -- and capital is hard (in-efficient) to raise in small quantities. Corporations provide a convenient, cost-effective way of raising and managing capital.

    You can say in theory that seeking profit does not necessitate a race to the bottom in wages, but look at what happens in practice. The vast majority of corporations take the easy route and do everything they can to cut wages and other labor costs.

    I blame "The People" for this. How many people buy the lowest price whatever with no regard for the management practices of the company that made the product? There are companies that try to treat their workers well, but does that translate into more sales? Instead, 100 million people shop at Wal-Mart everyday despite the well-known wage and benefits practices of that company. For a company, a competitor to Wal-mart or a supplier to Wal-Mart, the choice is clear, the people have spoken. The People want cheap goods and will gladly go to another company to buy them. Faced with a choice between closing the factory because nobody will buy high-priced goods or cutting wages & benefits, most sane, ethical, and moral managers chose the cuts.

    How many US companies offer full medical coverage now, or pensions?

    Defined benefit pensions are a deathtrap for a company and that fact will only get worse as the Baby Boomers age. Look at the old steel companies in this country to see what happens when the retiree population exceeds the employee population. Companies can read the actuarial tables, take one look at the ballooning numbers of retirees and know that they cannot afford to pay for everything. Moreover, in a world where people move, change jobs, change careers, it makes more sense to create defined contribution retirement plans or leave it up to each worker to use their pay as they see fit. In some ways the lessening of retirement benefits is a lessening of the golden handcuffs that keep workers tied to an employer.

    The problem with medical coverage is even more insidious -- we've separated the benefactor (the patient) from the payor (the employer/insurance company). Patients have no incentive to manage their own healthcare costs. Healthcare costs

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982