San Francisco

Google Barges Considered Firetraps, Report Says

The mysterious Google barge that appeared near San Francisco and was eventually moved to Stockton, Calif. was supposed to be a mobile tech showroom, but the project was pulled because of fire-safety concerns, according to a report.

The U.S. Coast Guard had concerns about the possibility of fires on the barges because of the large amount of fuel on board, the Wall Street Journal reported. “These vessels will have over 5,000 gallons of fuel on the main deck and a substantial amount of combustible material on board,” the Coast Guard’s acting chief of commercial vessel compliance wrote in an email to the contractor, Foss Maritime.

A Coast Guard inspector also wrote that the barges needed more safety measures -- however the Coast Guard officials all had to sign confidentiality agreements about the barges for Google so none of this was done publicly.
Neither Google nor Foss Maritime would comment on the report which was made public by the Freedom of Information Act. The Coast Guard reportedly said it "conducted its regulatory responsibilities when inspecting the Google barges” and had no further involvement.
The barges were created in 2011 to be "floating retail stores" but by early 2013, needed safety measures totaled 20 pages. Despite Google inviting officials on "field trips," the Coast Guard still wasn't won over. By September, the project's plug was pulled. In March, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission said the barge didn't have permits to stay near San Francisco and was moved to Stockton.
A similar barge in Maine was "dismantled in August, the containers sold for scrap," the WSJ reported.
The floating showroom idea was a good one, but unfortunately it looks like Google didn't research the project enough. Google's charm and money didn't seem to change the Coast Guard's mind nor ease the permitting process. Next time, Google will have to make sure all its ducks are in row before beginning a media extravaganza.
Contact Us