The WSJ reports that documents it has obtained via the Freedom of Information Act have shed light on why Google scrapped its barges just as they were nearing completion. According to the documents, the barge project was fraught with fire safety concerns from the Coast Guard that eventually led to the project being scrapped.
The Google barges piqued the interest of people around the world when they first surfaced in coastal US cities. We learned last year that the barges were intended to be floating showrooms for technology demos. Shortly after learning what the purpose of the barges was, Google scrapped the entire project and sent the barges to the scrap heap.
Documents show that the Coast Guard officially raised concerns about fire safety multiple times. “These vessels will have over 5,000 gallons of fuel on the main deck and a substantial amount of combustible material on board,” Robert Gauvin, the Coast Guard’s acting chief of commercial vessel compliance, wrote in an email from March 2013. Other emails show that Coast Guard inspectors wanted more safety precautions in case passengers were forced to jump over the side of the ship in an emergency. Concerns about the ability to evacuate disabled persons were also raised. Eventually the concerns lead to the project being cancelled.
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