Interlake Steamship Launches First New Great Lakes Freighter Since the 1980s

On Thursday, October 28, 2021, Interlake Steamship Co.’s new lake freighter, M/V Mark W. Barker, was launched from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. This is the first new Great Lakes freighter built in the United States since 1983. During the launching ceremony at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding on Thursday, it slid into the lake for the first time.

Fincantieri and Interlake Steamship Co. employees and workers, as well as a crowd of onlookers, were in attendance and for the launch of the Mark W. Barker, which will become the newest addition to Interlake’s fleet.

New Great Lakes Freighter Launch Ceremonies

New Great Lakes Freighter Mark W. Barker
Freighter Mark W. Barker Stern – Courtesy Interlake Steamship Co.

Mark Barker, Interlake’s president, and namesake of the new vessel made the following statement in a news release. “Today is truly gratifying for our company to commemorate the first time the completed hull of our new ship has touched the water,” 

Helen Sharp, the wife of Ian Sharp, Interlake’s Director of Fleet Projects, who drove the new ship’s design, was granted the privilege of acting as a sponsor at the event. First, she christened the ship with a ceremonial bottle of champagne held against the ship’s bow, right above the nameplate. Then, tugs in the shipyard blew congratulatory salutes while workers in the dry dock unlocked the valves to allow water to pour in. The procedure of floating the ship took around six hours.

New Great Lakes Freighter
Profile Mark W. Barker – Courtesy Interlake Steamship

The launching is a ceremonial maritime custom that commemorates this new Great Lakes freighter’s first move from land to water. The ritual is intended to honor and bless the new ship and her crew and bring good fortune on its future trips. 

The new Great Lakes freighter is a 639-foot River-class, self-unloading bulk carrier is the first ship built for US Great Lakes duty since 1983. The 20,000-DWT ship will deliver raw resources, including salt, iron ore, and stone, to boost Great Lakes’ industries. It will stand 45 feet tall.

The freighter was floated in the shipyard’s drydock for the event. It is not yet ready to go to the lakes, as work on its interior accommodations and mechanical and engineering systems is ongoing. Still, it is expected to be prepared for work in the spring. After completion and sea testing, it is expected to begin service during the 2022 shipping season.

Sustainability of Great Lakes Shipping

Interlake has moved about 49 million tons of iron ore, coal, and stone in the state of Michigan in the last five years. According to Interlake, a Great Lakes freighter can move 1 ton of cargo 607 miles on 1 gallon of fuel.

A single 1000 foot Laker freighter can exceed the carrying capacity of 700 train cars carrying 100 tons each or 2800 trucks carrying 25 tons each. You can track the status of Great Lakes freighters at N8DNX.

About Interlake Steamship Company

New Great Lakes Freighter
Mark W. Barker – Courtesy Interlake Steamship Co.

The Interlake Steamship Company, headquartered in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, operates a fleet of nine self-unloading bulk carriers on the Great Lakes. Interlake, a family-owned business, is one of the largest U.S.-flag fleets operating on the Great Lakes and carries approximately 20 million tons of bulk cargo throughout the Great Lakes annually. Those cargoes include iron ore, low-sulfur coal, grain, and limestone. The Interlake Steamship Company was founded in 1913, but its roots can be traced back to 1883.

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