The first new U.S.-flagged Great Lakes bulk carrier built in nearly 40 years departed on its maiden voyage this morning from Fancantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.
The M/V Mark W. Barker left the shipyard at a little after 10:30 a.m. for its 110-mile voyage to Port Inland, Michigan, where it will load stone to deliver to Muskegon, Michigan. Once delivered, that stone cargo will go into ready-mix concrete production.
“This is a monumental day for our company and the US flag fleet as our much-anticipated freighter departs on her first voyage in what will be a long life of service on the Great Lakes,” says Mark W. Barker, President of The Interlake Steamship Company and namesake of the vessel, the company’s first newbuild since 1981. “The construction of this vessel, which was made from steel manufactured in Indiana, from iron ore delivered by vessel from Minnesota, reinforces our long-term commitment to shipping and delivering essential cargoes for our customers throughout the region.”
The maiden voyage comes nearly three years after construction began involving hundreds of workers at the Sturgeon Bay shipyard.
The Mark W. Barker is a 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. The vessel is designed in-house by Interlake Steamship Company, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, and Bay Engineering, complete with advanced vessel and unloading systems automation. Ordered in April 2019, construction began in August that year and continued throughout the pandemic, leading to the vessel’s launch into Sturgeon Bay in October 2021 and now delivery as planned in mid-2022.
Measuring 639 feet in length 28,000 DWT, the ship will transport raw materials such as salt, iron ore, and stone to support manufacturing throughout the Great Lakes region.
“This new vessel not only brings with it additional cargo carrying capacity and capabilities, it is the most versatile in our fleet and strategically sized to navigate into nearly any port on the Great Lakes,” says Brendan P. O’Connor, Vice President of Marketing and Marine Traffic. “The M/V Mark W. Barker will give us unmatched ability for cargo operations and to carry unique project cargoes because of both her square-shaped cargo hold and larger hatch openings. She truly was designed to be a vessel for the future.”
Major partners providing services and equipment for the project include the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), Cleveland-Cliffs, Bay Engineering (BEI), EMD Engines, Caterpillar, EMS-Tech, Inc., Lufkin (a GE Company), Kongsberg and MacGregor.
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