In the News from Panama

New Cruise Ship Community Headed for Panama

A startup company has announced plans to turn a cruise ship into a floating community off the coast of Panama.

The company, Ocean Builders, which also promotes “floating, off-grid seapod homes,” has reportedly purchased the cruise ship, Pacific Dawn, from P&O Cruises Australia, a Carnival subsidiary. The plan is to anchor the boat in the Gulf of Panama, 30 minutes by ferry to Panama City. The 777 cabins will be made available for sale, with prices starting between $25,000 and $50,000, according to coverage in Maritime Executive.

The goal is to develop the ship as a technology incubator hub for entrepreneurs and “digital nomads,” according to Ocean Builders COO Chad Elwartowski, who is described as “an American bitcoin entrepreneur.” In addition to residents, cabins will be available for vacation rentals and areas will be set aside for research and office space.

“We look forward to creating a hub for technology and innovation here in Panama,” Elwartowski told the publication. “Our goal is to figure out how to live sustainably on the sea and chart new waters in this new frontier.” 

The company says it picked Panama as the perfect location for the “floating industry.” It has already set up operations on the Caribbean coast, attempting to start a community based on its seapod ideas.

“Sunny, peaceful, hurricane-free Panama will make for a great launchpad for this excellent new industry,” the company says on its Web site. In addition to the steady economy, welcoming business community, and flow of medical tourism, Panama is familiar with a marine economy and “has two long coasts and international appeal,” the company notes on its web site.

The company has already had its ups and downs. A first attempt at “seasteading” in Thailand was reportedly destroyed by the Thai Navy amid controversial circumstances, according to the company.

However, the cruise ship plan seems to be moving forward. The company plans to take control of the Pacific Dawn, which was built in 1991, in the Mediterranean on Nov. 4. The ship will be renamed Satoshi, a unit of bitcoin.

The company says it is taking advantage of the downturn to set up its operations, something we’re seeing throughout the region. The ship was available, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic and the temporary halt in the cruise business.

The cabins will not be outfitted with kitchens and living rooms, but residents will have access to ship amenities and discounts on food, according to the company. Buyers will acquire full, indefinite ownership of their cabin and pay a monthly fee to cover operating expenses, similar to a condo, the publication reports. The company is hoping to attract business owners and entrepreneurs to operate spaces while living aboard the ship. And bitcoin will be accepted for all purchases.

The company says it hopes to have the ship operational by 2021.

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