November 1, 2013

Documents confirm Google’s link to Portland mystery barge

Managers from the Internet giant met with a Maine company, the Coast Guard and others in May.

By Dennis Hoey
Staff Writer

The four-story structure that has been docked in Portland Harbor since Oct. 10 is connected in some way to Google, according to Coast Guard documents obtained by a Connecticut newspaper through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The documents, obtained by The Day of New London, say that Coast Guard officials met in May in New London to discuss the project with managers from Google, Turner Construction and Cianbro Corp. of Pittsfield, Maine.

Turner Construction built the four-story structure on a barge that was docked in New London. According to The Day, the modular containers were built in San Francisco and shipped to New London to be installed in the structure.

The documents show that officials from Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound took park in a conference call July 1 with a naval architect, a marine transportation company and Michael Tierney of Google Glass to review project plans, The Day reported.

The purpose of the structure and the barge it rests on is not described in the documents, which do reveal a plan to operate the vessel in various ports, the first being New York Harbor.

Tugboats from Portland towed the barge from New London, arriving Oct. 10 at Rickers Wharf on Portland’s waterfront, a facility owned and operated by Cianbro.

Cianbro’s Chief Executive Officer Peter Vigue has said that his company was hired to outfit the structure with technological equipment, and that he has been asked not to identify the owner.

Google has not responded to numerous email and phone messages since the barge arrived in Maine.

Speculation has been widespread that the structure in Portland and a nearly identical one in San Fransisco Bay belong to Google.

The technology giant has a patent for a floating data center that can be cooled with ocean water.

Media scrutiny intensified this week when a spokesman for the Coast Guard in San Francisco confirmed that Google is associated with the structure there but said he is restricted in his comments by a nondisclosure agreement.

When contacted by the Portland Press Herald, the Coast Guard reversed its position and said that it would no longer confirm or deny a Google connection.

That prompted the 11th Coast Guard District in Alameda, Calif., to issue a news release Thursday in an attempt to clarify its role. It starts by pointing out that the Coast Guard regulates maritime commerce.

“In this capacity, the Coast Guard conducts hundreds of inspections across the region on a wide variety of commercial vessels. During the course of these activities, Coast Guard personnel are often exposed to sensitive proprietary information, new technologies, and other trade secrets.

“Regardless of the company or entity involved, the Coast Guard has an obligation to protect sensitive propriety information, as a company’s competitive posture and business interests depend on it,” the release says.

The release does not reveal any new information, adding only that the Coast Guard has inspected the barge moored at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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