The first new U.S.-flagged Great Lakes freighter to be built in nearly 40 years was launched Thursday at the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding shipyard in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.
The Interlake Steamship Company vessel, M/V Mark W. Barker, is self-unloading bulk carrier that will transport raw materials such as salt, iron ore, and stone to support manufacturing throughout the Great Lakes region.
The new River-class vessel is believed to be the first ship for U.S. Great Lakes service built on the Great Lakes since 1983. Delivery is planned for Spring 2022.
Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding and The Interlake Steamship Company held a launch ceremony for the vessel on Thursday.
“Today is truly gratifying for our company to commemorate the first time the completed hull of our new ship has touched water,” said Mark W. Barker, President of The Interlake Steamship Company and namesake of the new vessel, which is the first new ship constructed for the company since 1981. Interlake’s office staff was in Sturgeon Bay to be a part of the launch celebration.
“We are dedicating this historic launch of our new ship to the men and women who have been building these Great Lakes vessels on our freshwater shores for more than 100 years,” said James R. Barker, Chairman of The Interlake Steamship Company. “We honor all of the skilled professionals who have worked countless hours, day in and day out, year after year, behind the scenes constructing these tremendous bulk carriers. Their workmanship and talent are welded into every seam of these vessels that go to sail long productive lives on the Lakes, safely carrying mariners and the raw materials that are the building blocks of America.”
In particular, Barker pointed to the contribution of Ian Sharp, Interlake’s Director of Fleet Projects, who spearheaded the in-house design of the newbuild beginning at the conceptual phase. A native of Scotland, Sharp has contributed to the design and shipbuilding of dozens of vessels throughout his more than five-decade career. His wife of 56 years, Helen Sharp, was selected as the honorary launch sponsor.
“Motor Vessel Mark W. Barker, your family name is strong, you are built strong by hard-working men and women and you will work strong. May God bless you and all who sail with you,” said Helen Sharp as she broke the ceremonial bottle of champagne against the bow of the ship just above the vessel’s nameplate.
Shipyard workers opened the valves on the dry dock, allowing water to flow in and float the ship during a process that took about 6 hours.
Measuring 639 feet in length, the M/V Mark W. Barker has a deadweight of 28,000 metric tons. The Interlake Steamship Company, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, and Bay Engineering jointly designed the ship, 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 G.E. Company), Kongsberg and MacGregor.
Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding’s Vice President and General Manager Todd Thayse invited all the shipyard crews to attend the short ceremony.
“It is a proud day for the men and women of our shipyard to celebrate the progress made on the M/V Mark W. Barker,” Thayse said. “Sharing this launch ceremony with the Interlake Steamship team along with Helen and Ian Sharp makes this day even more special.”
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