Why Google Left Portland Harbor

The four-story structure rests on top of a barge in Portland Harbor, in Portland, Maine.
The four-story structure rests on top of a barge in Portland Harbor, in Portland, Maine.

Late last year, a big barge carrying a four-story structure made out of shipping containers showed up in Portland Harbor in Maine, generating speculation about what exactly it was doing there. Rumors surfaced that Google was involved, and the tech giant eventually acknowledged that it was indeed responsible for the barge (as well as a couple near San Francsico). Google claimed it was planning some sort of tech exhibition center, and it was building it right off the coast of Maine. How very Google.

But the wind came out of its sails over the course of the next several months. By August, the Portland barge had left Maine as mysteriously as it had come in. The shipping containers were sold for scrap.


Now we know where things went wrong.

The Wall Street Journal, using information from a Freedom of Information Act filing, reported on Friday that the U.S. Coast Guard saw the projects as a fire hazard. The concerns of the Coast Guard were enough to keep the company from moving forward. By the time Google went public about its involvement with the barges, The Verge notes, the plans had already been put on ice.

According to The Portland Press Herald, the completed structure was New York-bound, so it was more the Big Apple’s loss than Maine’s. But Portland was proud to at least have played a role in something made by Google.

Jessica Grondin, spokeswoman for the city of Portland, said the Google barge has been good for Portland’s image because it linked Portland with San Francisco and high-tech innovation. A glorious departure after a successful Cianbro (the contractor working on the structure) overhaul would have been nice, she said.


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