Coast Guard Comments On Mysterious Google Barge

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Nearly a week after it was uncovered, Google is staying silent about mysterious barges off Treasure Island and in Maine. Meanwhile, KPIX 5 has received comment from the U.S. Coast Guard about the project, and has obtained details about the barges and who owns them.

We have found at least three barges, two with container structures on them, all marked with the letters “BAL” followed by four numbers. The two barges located at Treasure Island are identified as BAL0010 and BAL0001. A similar barge in Portland, Maine is identified as BAL0011.

A document provided to KPIX 5 by the Treasure Island Development Authority confirms a tenant of Hangar 3, which sits directly across from the barges, is called By and Large or BAL. Three other tenants lease space at the hangar.

BAL moved in on August 1st. So far, the authority has not provided KPIX with a copy of the lease to show how much they are paying and how long they plan to stay.

Adding to the intrigue is a sign that was found posted inside Hangar 3 that told anyone who is allowed in to turn over cellphones, cameras, and other recording devices.

Last week, tech website CNET first disclosed the barge building and speculated Google might be building a floating data center to house server banks on the water. Well placed sources told KPIX 5 that the barges are being built and outfitted as retail sales and marketing centers for Google Glass, the tech giant’s wearable computer.

So far, Google has not responded to numerous requests for comment on the project.

Other than the list of lessees, the Treasure Island Development Authority apparently is not even talking to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee about the project. On Tuesday, Lee seemed content to be in the dark about it.

The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) would need to approve docking the vessel, but building on the barge is subject to Coast Guard review.

“The permitting process for building is not handled by the BCDC and the Coast Guard has to provide a certificate for the vessel,” said Larry Goldzband, the agency’s executive director.

The Coast Guard issued a statement only confirming it is working with the barge’s owners. They did not give any additional details, saying, “Due to issues of commercial confidentiality, we are unable to disclose any more information at this time.”

Meanwhile, Reuters is reporting that at least one Coast Guard employee signed a confidentiality agreement with Google.

A Coast Guard spokesperson would only add that this is an “unusual situation that they don’t typically deal with.”

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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