Google's mystery barge ends up on the scrapheap

Google's mystery barge ends up on the scrapheap

Summary: Google's mystery barge is being dismantled and service as a potential invite-only showroom is no longer on the cards, according to reports.

TOPICS: Google
Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 10.17.13
Credit: Josh Miller/CNET

Google's mystery barge, intended to act as an invite-only showroom, is dashing Portland's claim to fame by being dismantled.

According to the Portland Press Herald, after being towed into Portland Harbor last October, the to-be showroom has now journeyed to Turner's Island Cargo Terminal in South Portland, where parts will be dismantled.

The barge, which contains over 60 shipping containers arranged to create a four-storey building, was worth $4 million when purchased new. Cianbro was scheduled to work on the interior of the structure on top, and although the engineering firm never disclosed the 250-foot barge's owner, Google eventually admitted that the barge was being explored to serve as "an interactive space where people can learn about new technology" after a similar barge was spotted in San Francisco last year. 

However, owner of the Turner's Island Cargo Terminal, Roger Hale, said the floating building has now been purchased by an anonymous "international barging company" and is currently being prepared to float on to a new, undisclosed location. The containers will be scrapped, but the barge will likely find work as something other than Google's mystery showroom.

It remains unclear why the project was scrapped, according to the publication, although money is likely to be the root cause of the sale. Not only did the barge cost millions, but all the time spent in port has been expensive -- and the barge has never fulfilled any purpose for the tech giant.

Sadly for Portland, the demise of the Google barge will also be a blow to future popularity and potential tourist revenues, but the city has not completely lost out -- as the area has collected $400,000 in property taxes on the barge while it remained in harbor.

Topic: Google

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  • Google hype

    Like much of what Google does, this entire story makes more sense when you recognise that it was primarily a PR stunt designed to sustain the corporation's desired image as a quirky startup.

    Google has more cash than it knows what to do with, most of which can be traced back to the corporations success with one product: web search. Profits have been maximised by a disgraceful policy of deliberate tax avoidance on an industrial scale, and failing to pay the true price of operations (e.g. consistently shirking privacy responsibilities, putting labour and manufacturing offshore, etc).

    Google is an online ad company. Everything else is hype.
    • Nope

      Google did their best to hide the fact that they were building this barge to begin with. If it weren't for the incredible persistence of the press in San Francisco, as well as their connections, they would never have discovered that Google was the owner of the barge.
      • Reality check

        "Google did their best to hide the fact that they were building this barge to begin with"

        Dude, let's get real. We learned about this barge through a "leak" (no pun intended) which in Google PR world almost always means a targeted press-release. Within about 10 seconds of the leak Google had "responded" to it with a pre-prepared statement manifestly designed to confirm the story while continuing to be as vague as possible in order to try and be all mysterious.

        Indeed, the defining feature of the barge is that it was HUGE -- much bigger than it needed to be (leaving aside the fact that it was not really needed at all). This is classic attention-seeking behaviour, and they could not wait for people to start asking questions to create buzz around their gigantic PR stunt. It worked, too.

        Customary Google staff defensive post under anonymous username noted.
  • Standard Google: throwing good money after bad.

    If Google's one trick pony ever gets impacted, the company will go bankrupt in 2 years the way it spends money on foolish things.
    • To paraphrase the Spartan response....

      • It isn't that big of an "if"

        Google reminds me of the old AT&T. Cool in some aspects but unable to deal with any disruption of its business. CPC for Google continues its rapid decline and the only way they can combat it is flooding more and more lower value product (more ads) on every page.
      • When, not if.

        A defining feature of the tech revolution is that every established product is just waiting for the next big thing to arrive and kill it. E.g. Social is making a huge dent in Google search already, and imagine if Facebook launch web search 2.0 taking the idea to the next level as has been rumoured in the past.
  • Probably about regulations

    I don't think it was cancelled due to cash flow. I think someone didn't do their homework and then discovered safety regulations wouldn't allow it to open to public access.
    Buster Friendly
    • Yeah. You don't need life jackets in Apple stores.

      Just plenty of cash.
      • Or credit

        Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Nope

      Construction of the barge was halted when it was discovered Google didn't have the necessary permits. As far as public access goes, construction was never completed so that wasn't remotely an issue.
  • Typical Google

    Typical Google, throwing money after projects that eventually turn out to be fruitless. The only projects they've undertaken that have really benefited people are Gmail and Maps. Everything else, Glass, floating barge, smart watch, self driving cars, etc. either have yielded nothing of significant merit or have dubious futures.

    Personally, as much as Android has dominated market share, I don't even see that outlasting the competition. Even Google got tired of making Android handsets. They couldn't wait to sell off Motorola after just a couple of years.
    • Maha888: "Even Google got tired of making Android handsets"

      I never believed that Google wanted to be in the mobile device manufacturing business. Google was desperate for Motorola Mobility's patents, which it kept in it's [pending] sale of MM to Lenovo.

      As for Android, I don't see Google ditching it any time soon. Android apps will soon be available on Chrome OS.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • What's ChromeOS?

        Oh. That OS with 0.1% world wide OS share after 4 years.
        • 0.1% is generous

          It's only 0.1% if you are generous AND round-up the data. It's arguably 0.0%, strictly, if we round to 2dp.
    • One trick pony

      I would echo that and further point out that everything Google has done has been bankrolled by search. Furthermore, all the best stuff (Analytics, Docs, Maps, YouTube, etc) was not even innovated by Google but acquired -- using the cash from search.