How Floating Cities Will Work

By: Kevin Bonsor  | 
Floating city on the ocean
Freedom Ship will be a floating city that will contain over 50,000 permanent residents. Find out how the Freedom Ship concept will eventually work.
Photo courtesy Freedom Ship International


­Millions of people take cruises each year; but when their cruise ends, they usually return to their homes on land. Wouldn't it be great if there was a cruise that never ende­d? That's the basic idea behind a floating city, and an ocean vessel called Freedom Ship is trying the concept out.


Unlike a cruise ship, Freedom Ship plans to have permanent residents. The ship would circle the globe every two years and offer everything available in your hometown, including urban areas, a hospital, college, and one of the world's largest shopping malls.

While progress on the Freedom Ship has been anchored in recent years, its aim is to become a home for the rich and famous. In this article, we'll take a look at the plans for this floating city and see how it compares to today's largest cruise ships!


The World's Biggest Ship

Artist rendering of a floating city called Freedom Ship.
Plans for a floating city called Freedom Ship are on hold, pending financial backing.

­­No cruise ship that has ever been built would compare to the enormity of Freedom Ship. Imagine a mile-long stretch of 25-story-tall buildings in New York City; now imagine that floating on the water. If you can picture such floating structures, then you get the­ general idea of Freedom Ship's size.

At a proposed size of 4,320 feet (1,317 meters) long, 725 feet (221 m) wide, and 340 feet (103 m) tall, the ship is taller than the length of a football field and wider than two football fields put together. And not only can a ship that size float on water, but all that floating architecture may be able to navigate the world's oceans as well.


The Construction of Floating Cities

Freedom Ship will dwarf any ocean-going vessel operating today -- it will be nearly four times longer than any current cruise ship. For example, the largest cruise ship as of 2023 (the "Icon of the Seas") is approximately 1,198 feet in length. The Freedom Ship, meanwhile, would measure an astounding 4,320 feet in length. In addition, it would weigh 2.7 million tons, which outclasses the Icon of the Seas' 250,800 tons by a massive margin.

Building the Structure

Freedom Ship will be built on top of 520 airtight steel cells that will be bolted together to form a sturdy base. Each cell will be 80 feet (24 meters) tall, between 50 and 100 feet (15 and 30 m) wide and between 50 and 120 feet (15 and 37 m) long. These cells will be assembled to form larger interconnected platforms that are about 300 x 400 feet (91 x 122 m).


These larger units will then be taken out to sea, where they will be put together to form the ship's nearly mile-long base. The rest of the ship will be constructed on top of this base. Norman Nixon, who developed the idea of a floating city, has said that it will take about three years to finish the ship once construction begins.

Engine Power

It will take a tremendous amount of engine power to push the gigantic ship through the water. The vessel will be equipped with 100 diesel engines that can generate 3,700 horsepower each. Developers project the cost of each engine to be at least $1 million.

That may give you an idea of how expensive the project is. Although the total cost of Freedom Ship has not been released, the last estimate stood at $10 billion. The ship's high construction cost will be passed on to residents, but that's only if the project receives the financial backing it requires to get started.


Life at Freedom Ship

Floating cities will be approximately four times the size of the biggest cruise ships.
The world's largest ship will be over 4,000 feet long and 300 feet high.

­Freedom Ship proposes to make 17,000 residential units that will be home to more than 60,000 people, including residents and all of the personnel that will be required to maintain the ship. The floating city will continuously circle the world and will travel to most of Earth's coastal cities, offering residents the ability to see the entire globe without leaving their home.

All of the ship's employees will be given food, housing, uniforms, medical and dental care, plus a continuing education program. The ship will contain all of the features that any modern city might have, including:


  • A $200 million hospital
  • A 3,800-foot (1,158-m) landing strip, which will serve private planes and some small commercial aircraft that carry no more than 40 passengers
  • Hangars for private aircraft
  • A marina for residents' yachts
  • A large shopping mall
  • A school system offering K-12 and college education
  • A golf driving range
  • Bicycle paths
  • 200 open acres for recreation


Perhaps unsurprisingly, affordable housing is not a major focus for Freedom Ship. Suites were set to start at $121,000 for a 300-square-foot room and go up to $11 million for a 5,100 square foot suite on the ship's exclusive 21st floor, where prices start at $3 million! Keep in mind, these prices have not been adjusted to reflect post-pandemic inflation.

For those who could afford to live on Freedom Ship, the most attractive feature may be that it has no local taxes, including income tax, real estate tax, sales tax, business tax and import duties. However, residents would have to abide by federal tax laws in their home country.


Fun and Secure

For entertainment, residents can visit one of the many restaurants, casinos, nightclubs and theaters. Residents will also enjoy tennis, basketball, bowling, putting greens, swimming pools, gyms, a skating rink, and fishing from the ship's marina. Each home will have 100 channels of worldwide satellite TV channels and local programming from nearby countries. Internet access will be available in each unit.

Just like your own hometown police department, Freedom Ship would have a security force onboard to patrol the ship at all times. In addition, the ship's entire crew would receive security training. An electronic security system would be installed to offer further protection to residents.


Eco-Friendly Living on the Seas

In addition to all of these benefits, Freedom Ship would also be environmentally friendly, according to its developers. There would be no sewage treatment plant and no sewage to spill. The ship would use incinerator toilets, which cost about $3,000 apiece, to burn all sewage. The ashes would be put in the flower beds. Waste oil would be burned in an exhaust steam plant to generate electricity, instead of being dumped in the ocean.

Meanwhile, all used glass, paper, and metal will be recycled and sold. Freedom Ship International estimates that each resident will produce 80 percent less waste on the ship than at his or her current home on land.


Risks of Living on a Floating City

­The concept of a floating city comes with some unprecedented challenges. Perhaps the most obvious risk is related to climate change, as rising sea levels could lead to unpredictable issues either navigating the oceans or attempting to dock. Beyond the sea level rise, floating cities would have to plan for climate refugees who are seeking shelter. As extreme weather intensifies (as a result of climate change), floating homes could be particularly vulnerable.

There are also environmental concerns about floating cities. For example, how might vital marine ecosystems, from large marine mammals to brain coral banks, be impacted by a mammoth floating city living in its midst? From rising seas to unseen ecological effects, the risks involved with these floating structures are difficult to predict.


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