What’s the mystery structure on the barge? A submarine drydock? The Borg?

Nobody’s willing to say what’s in the box-shaped four-story structure that arrived by barge at Cianbro’s Rickers Wharf Marine Facility in Portland last night, nor will anybody divulge who commissioned its construction or why.

Folks who know for sure, like Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue, won’t say, passing along only that the project is “very important,” and that his “client” has demanded complete secrecy about it.

(BDN photo by Seth Koenig)

Folks who don’t know for sure, like workers and officials along the New London waterfront, have described the project as “hush hush.”

According to The Day newspaper in New London, Connecticut, where the structure was initially built before shipped up to Portland, the office of Congressman Joe Courtney and chairman of the Connecticut Schooner Festival both said they were told it was a movie set.

The head of New London’s three-day summer Sailfest event told the newspaper she heard the building would ultimately be used in New York, helping fuel speculation that it’s a floating prison similar to New York’s barge-based Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center.

Today, I got a call from somebody who works for the state of Maine, but who wished to remain anonymous, saying she thinks it’s a submarine drydock, likely to help move the burned USS Miami away from Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery.

“I just looked at it and said, ‘What’s the big mystery? It’s a floating drydock for a submarine,’” she told me.

She does have some exposure to submarines, as a close relative was assigned to one as a member of the U.S. Navy. But, to be clear, she didn’t have any inside information about the project and outside of eyeballing the thing and making some deductions about where it was coming from (nearby Groton, Conn., is home to both a Navy sub base and General Dynamics’ Electric Boat, a submarine builder) and the obvious need to get the charred Miami off to scrap.

The Miami is about 362 feet long, for what it’s worth. The structure on the barge appears from pictures to be about twice as long as the 131-foot tugboat Rowan M. McAllister alongside it, so by just back-of-the-napkin math, the mystery building would be about 100 feet shorter than a nuclear attack sub.

Not sure if that’s a deal breaker — maybe you can hang the rear end of the sub out the back — but the structure also appears to have lots of narrow windows on it. That seems like a lot of unnecessary complication (For natural light inside? For people to look out?) on something built just for dragging a submarine off to its grave.

Other less serious (I think, anyway) ideas from our reader comments section:

1.) A modern Noah’s Ark of sorts

2.) The Soylent Green Processing Center

3.) The new headquarters for the forces of evil, which since agent Maxwell Smart destroyed KAOS more than four decades ago, are now headed by a clandestine coalition including meteorologists and the New York Yankees

4.) The Borg (“Resistance is futile.”)

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Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.