Seafaring offshore outsourcer hopes to drop anchor

SeaCode, the company that plans to turn offshore outsourcing into a seafaring adventure, may be ready by this September to drop anchor off the coast of California with a merry crew of programmers.

More than a year has passed since this San Diego-based company announced its seemingly audacious goal of buying a ship and sailing three miles off the coast of California with a boatload of programmers from around the world to do coding work for US companies at low wages.

Roger Green, one of the venture's founders, said the company hopes to have its financing set this month and has identified a ship with room for 100 programmers -- each with their own private berth.

"We've been keeping a very low profile because the ship is not yet acquired," said Green, adding that his company is negotiating financing for a ship acquisition. "We have a lot of confidence."

The ship will fly the flag of a country other than the US and operate under international seafaring laws. The firm's business case to US customers is simple: to offer coding work at prices similar to offshore rates but at close proximity to its North American clients.

Green said he won't be hiring programmers until SeaCode lines up client contracts and knows what kinds of skills are needed. It plans to recruit workers from India and Eastern Europe, although Green said he has also heard from some US engineers interested in employment.

The wages will be about US$1,800 a month, "three times [what] the entry wage is in the India market," said Green. Interest among US programmers is coming from people who see lodging and boarding on board the ship as part of the overall benefit.

When the project was first announced, SeaCode envisioned having a ship large enough to accommodate 600 programmers. Green remains ambitious and talked in terms of having multiple ships at some point. But using a smaller ship -- at least at first -- will allow it to fine-tune its processes.

"No matter how confident [we are] that we got it all figured out, all of us have done it enough times over the years to know that when you start actually executing the processes need to change and get tweaked," said Green, who has been involved in previous outsourcing projects.

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