What's on Google's barge? The Coast Guard won't say

A security guard stands in front of the entrance to a barge, at left, on Treasure Island in San Francisco, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. The barge is one of three mysterious floating structures that have sparked online speculation. The secretive structures, two in San Francisco and one Portland, Maine, are registered with a Delaware corporation as BAL0001, BAL0010, BAL0011 and BAL0100. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu

A trio of  

barges said to belong to Google  has the tech world buzzing, and now the Coast Guard is getting to the bottom of the mystery -- but it won't be discussing the details anytime soon.


The barges are registered with the Delaware corporation By and Large as BAL0001, BAL0010, BAL0011 and BAL0100, the Associated Press reports, which is binary code that spells out "one," "two," "three" and "four." Two of the barges are floating of the coast of San Francisco's Treasure Island and the third in Maine's Portland Harbor. If there is a fourth barge on open waters, it has not been spotted yet.

The Coast Guard boarded the ship on Wednesday, the San Jose Mercury News reports, but it wasn't to respond to an emergency or fire. Its reason for boarding are unclear because agency says it is not releasing additional information about the barge because of confidentiality agreements. According to CBS San Francisco the Coast Guard says it is working with the barge's owners, but did discuss further details.

In a statement given to CNBC, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard said: "We can confirm that Google is involved or associated with the barge but there is a nondisclosure agreement in effect; the Coast Guard is unable to discuss or divulge any further details at this time."

The connection between the barges and Google was originally reported by CNET, citing the executive director at the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Corporation (BCDC) -- which has refused to issue the tech giant a permit to tow barge into the city.

As to what Google is doing with the barges remains a mystery, but widespread speculation suggests that Google is building a data center. According to CNET, Google has a patent for a water-based data center, which was originally filed in 2007.

An independent marine engineer, who spoke with CNET on conditions of anonymity, says that Google wanted to build a backup data center, in case a natural disaster struck. The engineer added that Google planned to build more than a dozen data centers, placing them worldwide, in places like Asia, Europe and South America.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.