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Add another item to Google’s long list of employee perks: ferry service.

The Internet company has launched a free service aboard an 83-foot, Wi-Fi-equipped catamaran to carry workers on their daily commute between San Francisco and the South Bay.

None of its rivals have announced similar plans. But Google is hoping to defuse a simmering controversy over the high-end charter buses that several major tech companies use to shuttle thousands of employees to work in Silicon Valley from San Francisco and the East Bay.

Google’s chartered ferrycan carry up to 150 passengers. It’s been less than full on its initial round trips between San Francisco’s ferry terminal and the Port of Redwood City, where employees can hop a private bus to the nearby Google campus in Mountain View.

“They’re going to see if this is something their employees want, and if it makes economic and logistical sense,” said Peter Dailey, maritime director for the Port of San Francisco.

Google, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo and Genentech agreed earlier this week to pay up to $1.5 million in user fees after San Francisco residents complained that the companies’ private buses are clogging city streets and blocking access to public transit stops.