Google's barges caused much speculation when they first appeared in San Francisco and Portland, Maine, last year. Now, though, it appears they have been scrapped because Google couldn't prove to the US Coast Guard that they were safe.
The Wall Street Journal reports that documents it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the project has been on hold for two months. The reason? The US Coast Guard has repeatedly raised fire-safety concerns about the vessels, and Google simply hasn't been able to answer them in a satisfactory manner.
In fact, the documents suggest that the Coast Guard had concerns from the off, with one email sent way back in March 2013 pointing out to Google that the barges were to have "over 5,000 gallons of fuel on the main deck" alongside a "substantial amount of combustible material". You don't need the brain of Sergey Brin to know that's a Bad Idea.
Later, last August, the Coast Guard pointed out that the barges didn't feature "certain fire safety features typically required," and also questioned whether Google had made provisions for the evacuation of disabled people. And there seemed to be some confusion over the number of people allowed to be on board, too: Google claimed it expected 1200 people to visit per day, but its contractors claimed no more than 150 would be on board at the same time.
Ultimately, the Coast Guard expressed concern over the fact that "significant work has already been performed without full consent of the Coast Guard." Clearly, it remains unconvinced — which no doubt led to the Portland barge being for scrap in August. [WSJ]