It’s been over a month since we heard any new information about the ‘Google Barge,’ which is expected to become a floating showroom in San Francisco Bay for some of the company’s newest technologies. It seems there’s a good reason for the lack of news on that front, as Google’s plans have apparently been put “on hiatus.”
After observing that several weeks had passed without any visible progress being made in the barge’s construction, CNET reports that work on the floating structure came to a halt shortly after the United States Coast Guard conducted an inspection of it on October 23. The Coast Guard has said that it “did not stop any work on” the barge, implying that they did not directly instruct Google to halt their development efforts, but CNET speculates that there may have been concerns regarding the barge’s “suitability for being visited by members of the public.”
This assertion seems to be supported by Brad McCrea of San Francisco’s Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), who said: “We have learned that the barge is still under construction, albeit in a hiatus, and likely will not be completed until late spring 2014. In addition, Google is still exploring options for how to use the barge when it is completed.” McCrea added: “It’s our understanding that the design changes are to the interior of the vessel, as requested by the Coast Guard.”
The U.S. Coast Guard has not commented further on its inspection or its possible involvement with Google's apparent decision to suspend construction work.
BCDC has its own concerns regarding Google’s plans for the barge, and has done for some time. In October, the organisation's executive director, Larry Goldzband, said: "The law is crystal clear in this case: The Bay is not to be used for something that can be built on land," raising doubts about whether the barge will even be permitted to operate there as Google intends. BCDC says that Google has still not officially requested a permit to dock the barge in San Francisco, and even when that permit is sought, it is likely that it will only be granted on condition that the vessel does not remain moored there “for too long,” according to CNET.
BCDC is also conducting an investigation, which is expected to take several weeks, into whether Google will need a permit allowing it to continue construction of the barge at its current location by Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. The results of that review will determine “whether or not the barge can be constructed there or will have to be completed at a different location,” McCrea said.
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