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The story behind the mysterious GOOGLE BARGE and Port of Stockton
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The story behind the mysterious GOOGLE BARGE and Port of Stockton

Photo courtesy of Susan Filios

By now you've heard that the mysterious Google Barge has docked at the Port of Stockton for an approximate 6 month stay.

What you may not know is how Stockton came to be the temporary (for now) home of a marketing execs dream. A barge is a barge is a barge is a barge...except when it comes to Google.

The actual concept of Google floating projects started several years ago. Google started working on four barges between 2010 and 2012. One was placed at Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay. It made sense to have one in the Bay Area near Google headquarters. Regardless if it's a floating data center, showcase for new Google products, education center or something totally different, once word got out about the barges, it went viral and the interest grew world-wide.


Many ask how could the Google barge make its way to Stockton without many people knowing far in advance? The Mayor of Stockton didn't know. Port of Stockton personnel didn't know. Dock workers didn't know.

The whole search started in early February when the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission informed Google that it would either have to get the required permit, move out of the bay, or pay fines. Basically, Google was threatened to be fined for not having additional permits needed to keep the barge docked in the San Francisco bay area. We're talking about a barge just sitting there docked while others worked on it. The Bay Area has a way of doing things differently. In this case it worked out to Stockton's benefit. Google had to move the barge and started looking at other ports and facilities.

The answer to "How did the barge come to Stockton?" is fairly simple according to Jeff Wingfield, Port of Stockton Director of Environmental, Governmental and Public Affairs and others that gave some insights to the process and final docking in Stockton.

"We deal with sub-contractors who represent a variety of clients and we don't know who the actual client is until they show up. In this case, there weren't any special needs to accommodate the barge so it didn't stand out as anything special. The initial inquiry for space was started about a month prior to barge arrival by a sub-contractor" said Wingfield.

He continued, "You have to realize that we have Port receives approximately 300 vessels a year. The actual size of the barge is a couple of hundred of feet. It's a smaller vessel compared to most of those that we receive. It just so happens to be a special one called Google."

The sub-contractor basically required dock space and land access. That's pretty common for just about all other vessels at the Port.  would guess that it started about a month ago by sub-contractor

Within a short amount of time, everything was in place with the sub-contractor. But was it really the Google barge headed to Stockton?

The Port administration got a call at 2am that the Google barge was indeed headed to Stockton.  There were other cities such as Vallejo and other Bay Area ports that hoped to receive the barge.  

Wingfield said that it wasn't until they actually saw the barge turn the corner and head towards the port that they knew it was "THE BARGE" everyone was talking about. The barge arrived at the Port of Stockton shortly after 10am on March 6th morning.

Wingfield said, "The agreement last six months. They could stay longer. We welcome them to stay as long as they like."


While the Google barge is an important client for the Port of Stockton due to its "celebrity" status, the Port of Stockton is well staffed and prepared for such vessels. At some point Google (or its many sub-contractors) may be hiring workers to remodel the barge.  

The impact may be in something more than economic. It brings a certain awareness that a large company like Google would select the Port of Stockton to dock its prized barge. In fact, since then, reporters local and from other countries have come to Stockton to provide news coverage about the barge.

"It allows us to talk with companies that might not have ever been aware of the Port of Stockton nor its capabilities" said Wingfield. "Our reputation and word of our infrastructure is getting out there and we are being known for having this great facility."


While the Google barge has brought a lot of attention, the Port of Stockton has contributed in many ways to the local community. A few such contributions are

  • Free port educational cruises --over 2,000 people took the cruises last year. The cruises helped residents understand how important the port and waterways are to our way of life in the fertile San Joaquin Valley. 
  •  Dredged the port to allow larger vessels. At the same time worked with U.S. Fish & Wildlife(USFW) on an endangered species project in Antioch refuge dunes. The USFW didn't have funds to bring in the needed dirt/sand in to restore the project. The dunes had been destroyed many years after the 1906 San Francisco fire. Sand was removed to help make bricks to rebuild the city.

It was a tremendous honor for us to help and be involved with this restoration project said Wingfield. The Port was able to take the sand dredged locally and take this pure white river sand to the refuge.

Levee restoration and protection: "Owl Cam"

As we all know, the levees in this area are especially important to prevent flooding. The Port of Stockton takes conservation seriously and uses eleven (11) locally grown owls to protect the levees from dangerous ground squirrels and other animals that might dig holes in the levees. The owls provide a natural solution and consume about 20,000 rodents a year. The Port's "Owl Cam" has become very popular with live streaming of the birth of baby owls and their growth. Visit the Port of Stockton to learn more.

The Port of Stockton and the "Marine Highway":

The Port of Stockton is involved with the Marine Highway project where containers are barged between Stockton and Oakland to get them off the roads resulting in an 80% of emission reduction via the Altamont corridor. Barging, rather than trucking, is very environmentally friendly.

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