Video: Keel Laid For First New US-flag Laker in Decades

A keel laying ceremony on Tuesday marked the official start of assembly on the first new U.S.-flagged Great Lakes bulk carrier to be built in more than 35 years.

During the ceremony held by The Interlake Steamship Company and Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, (FBS) the keel was laid within the shipyard’s large graving dock in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. following more than nine months of engineering and prefabrication work of its modular sections by the FBS team.

Though the build project is already well underway, today’s event recognized the keel laying as the first joining of modular components, or the lowering of the first modules into place in the graving dock. 

Scheduled for completion in mid-2022, the new River-Class, self-unloading bulk carrier is believed to be the first ship for U.S. Great Lakes service built on the Great Lakes since 1983. Measuring 639 feet in length (78 feet W, 45 feet H, 28,000 DWT), the ship will transport raw materials such as salt, iron ore and stone to support manufacturing throughout the Great Lakes region.

Interlake’s Chairman James R. Barker, revealed the new vessel would bear the name of his son and second-generation leader of the Company, Mark W. Barker.

“This ship is more than the steel assembled here by Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding,” said James R. Barker, who has led the family-run company for more than three decades. “This ship represents Interlake’s determination to be an active and responsible participant in all aspects of Great Lakes trade.”

“This ship is being named for my son, Mark W. Barker, to recognize the many contributions that he has made to the company, the industry and to our community. In addition, this naming reflects the successful management team that he has put together,” Barker said. “Finally, it reflects that we are a family company and our commitment to staying one.”

“Our workforce is very proud to construct what will become a ‘homeport ship’,” says Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding’s Vice President and General Manager Todd Thayse. “This large-scale bulk carrier is being built on the Great Lakes and will operate right here on the Great Lakes, which creates a sense of local and regional pride. Today’s ceremony with Interlake and the naming of the vessel really brings this ship to life. We are excited and appreciative for Interlake’s continued confidence in the quality of our work.”

“It is truly amazing to have a ship that is built here in Wisconsin and made from steel from Indiana that came from iron ore mined in Minnesota with U.S. crews, U.S. workers and U.S. miners all doing this for our great Country,” said Mark W. Barker, President of Interlake. “This is just an amazing story that I am absolutely privileged and so proud to be a part of as we continue the long tradition in this Country of building, running and operating the U.S. fleet.”  

The Interlake Steamship Company, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding and Bay Engineering jointly designed the bulk carrier, complete with advanced vessel and unloading systems automation. Major partners for the project include: American Bureau of Shipping (ABS); ArcelorMittal, Bay Engineering (BEI); EMD Engines; Caterpillar; EMS-Tech, Inc.; Lufkin (a GE Company), Kongsberg and MacGregor.  

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