February 22, 2018
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Report: Google barge in Portland Harbor will be floating showroom for new products

By Jennifer McDermott, The Day, and BDN staff

Two Google barges, including one in Portland harbor, will be floating showrooms for the company’s secret Google X projects, according San Francisco TV station KPIX.

The report says the barges will be used to market Google Glass and other cutting edge products by invitation only. The barges will also have party decks for its clientele, a source told KPIX.

The structures, built from shipping containers, can be disassembled and moved by rail, trucks or by sea and rebuilt elsewhere, the report said.

Coast Guard documents obtained Thursday show that Google was indeed involved.

When Turner Construction first leased space from Logistec USA at the Admiral Harold E. Shear State Pier in New London in May to build the structure on the barge, Coast Guard officials met with project managers from Google, Turner and Cianbro Corp. to discuss the project and expectations, according to documents obtained by The Day Thursday through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Construction on a structure made of container units continued through July, and on July 1 Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound took part in a conference call with a naval architect, a marine transportation company and Michael Tierney, of Google Glass, to review the plans.

The purpose of the vessel is not described in the documents, but they reveal a plan to operate the vessel in various ports, with the first being New York Harbor.

News reports have contained speculation that the structure, since towed to Maine, and a matching barge in San Francisco Bay, could be floating data centers owned by Google or could be retail stores for Google Glass, the internet-connected eyewear.

This week, however, work on both barges has reportedly stopped. Google has not commented on the matter.

The Day reported Sept. 28 that no one involved with the construction in New London harbor would say or even knew the mysterious structure’s purpose. The building attracted attention all summer.

The modular containers were built in San Francisco and shipped to New London to be installed and the Coast Guard inspectors on both coasts coordinated with each other during the construction in New London, the documents show. Coast Guard Sector San Francisco was responsible for overseeing the units. Sector Long Island Sound and Sector San Francisco discussed issues that arose during the work.

The barge in San Francisco Bay is “BAL0010.” The barge that was in New London is BAL0011, the sister to BAL0010, according to the Coast Guard. Both are owned by By and Large LLC, in Wilmington, Del.

Sector Long Island Sound inspected the systems on board the 249-foot passenger barge in New London, which was built in 2011, and found them all to be satisfactory.

The modular units were installed in New London beginning in June, but on July 18 the Coast Guard was informed the project had been suspended and the vessel would be boarded up. The Coast Guard was asked about moving the barge to New York or some other port.

A tugboat from Portland Tugboat LLC led the barge down the Thames River Oct. 9, en route to Maine. In Portland, Cianbro plans to install undisclosed technological equipment inside the building.

Coast Guard officials have said they could not discuss the matter in detail because of issues of commercial confidentiality.

The Coast Guard’s 11th District in California released a public statement Thursday that said that during the course of vessel inspections, Coast Guard personnel are often privy to sensitive proprietary information.

“Regardless of the company or entity involved, the Coast Guard has an obligation to protect sensitive proprietary information, as a company’s competitive posture and business interests depend on it,” the statement said. “Regarding the barge BAL0010 moored at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, Coast Guard personnel have been onboard to conduct routine inspections and ensure compliance with applicable, safety, security, and environmental protection regulations.”

The statement does not mention Google.

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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