Two San Diego entrepreneurs have come up with a very literal twist on offshoring software development jobs. This pair wants to get their hands on a 600-cabin cruise ship and park it off the coast of El Segundo, Calif., just over the 3-mile border that marks international waters. They’ll pack the boat with engineers who will write code day and night. The two founders of SeaCode, David Cook and Roger Green, are confident their plan will float. All they need to do is classify their workers as “seamen,” so that they’re protected by international maritime laws that skirt the need for those pesky immigration visas. The workers will fly in and out of Los Angeles International and board the ship with a sailor’s card from the Bahamas, where the ship likely will be registered. This lets the company avoid U.S. payroll taxes on the foreign coders. Cook, a former supertanker skipper, plans to dock in Long Beach once a month to resupply and dispose of waste.
The idea is to offer developing-world prices and let execs skip the long flights they make to check on overseas projects. Crazy? Illegal?
As much as it sounds like a joke, the plan could work. “Nothing tells me that it’s flatly prohibited,” says San Francisco maritime lawyer James Walsh. That’s because a “seaman” can be defined broadly as anyone who works on a vessel.