TWO BARGES LOOKING LIKE MASSIVE BARRACKS OR HOTEL BARGES BUT ABSENT SOME OF THE NECESSARY ACCESS AND EGRESS SYSTEMS HAVE APPEARED IN BOTH SAN FRANCISCO AND PORTLAND. THEY MAY BOTH BE OWNED BY GOOGLE. WHAT MIGHT GOOGLE BE DOING IN THE BARGE BUSINESS?
|U.S. NAVY Photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Damon J. Moritz of a Navy Barracks Barge. Note the two entrances framed by awnings and fire escape like stairs and compare with the photos of the barges in the linked article.
A strange looking barge similar to a traditional barracks barge used by the military or "hotel" barges used by the offshore oil industry appeared in Portland, Oregon's harbor earlier this month. However this barge and an identical one seen in San Francisco lack certain features that maritime observers would associate with a barracks or hotel barge. Whatever their purpose the owners aren't issuing press releases or answering questions. But vessels have owners and they are traceable. In this instance both vessels have the same owner, a corporation separate from but linked to , GOOGLE. So what might Google be doing in the barge business? The story by Tom Bell of the PORTLAND PRESS HERALD reveals some impressive investigative research and the probable mission for these barges. We won't tell you what the mission of the barges is here, for that you need to read Tom Bell's report using the link below.Mystery Barges
However we do have an observation not carried in Mr. Bell's story. In our on going series on maritime international law anyone following the posts would note that there is a lot of international regulation of surface navigation rights and bottom rights such as mineral rights and benthic fisheries management. Other than requiring submarines to navigate on the surface in territorial waters and some internationally delegated management duties for migratory fisheries international law has had little to say about adjacent coastal states rights in the WATER COLUMN beyond the territorial sea.
The surface navigation rights have kept the surface pretty much in the commons, while the Offshore Continental Shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone conventions have placed the bottom to about 200 miles off shore in many cases squarely under the soverignity of the adjacent coastal state. If Mr. Bell is right about these barges they will probably be exercising well established surface navigation rights and if moored within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, they will will be moored to a bottom under a known and predictable regulatory schematic. However if operated outside of territorial waters (12 miles from shore) the technology these barges would utilize if Mr. Bell is correct exploits the temperature differentials and/or related kinetic energy generated by the water column. We've know about this technology for decades but previously there have been few applications of it. If these barges signal a growth trend in the use of ocean water column temperature differentials and other water column sources of kinetic energy we hope the technology can be proven in territorial waters.
Beyond the territorial sea the water column resources are under addressed in international law and the UN could conceivably interject itself. Decades ago when the U.S. announced that it had a ship ready to mine manganese nodules from the deep sea floor beyond the outer continental shelf the UN quickly passed a resolution placing the deep ocean floor in the global commons and declared that no one should engage in deep seabed mining without a permit from the UN and paying into a trust fund for the international community. At first the U.S. appeared to be in defiance of the UN policy though it did not use its Security Counsel veto power, as the ship set up operations off of Hawaii. Years later it was revealed that the ship was never intended for mining operations, that was just a cover story for an attempt to raise a sunken Soviet nuclear submarine. You can read the entire story of this bogus deep sea mining/ submarine salvage adventure in either of the two books depicted below. Just click on the book cover icons to learn more.
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Assuming that Mr. Bell's research is correct we may be looking at a development that could speed the development of the international law of the ocean water column, or we could be looking at something all together different. History tells us that not everything in the maritime world is exactky what it seems.