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The bulk carrier Mark W. Barker pictured underway on maiden voyage. Viewed from the front.

The bulk carrier Mark W. Barker pictured underway on maiden voyage in July 2022. Photo courtesy Interlake Steamship Company

Great Lakes Freighter Mark W. Barker Briefly Grounds on Detroit River

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 3948
May 17, 2023

The 639-foot Great Lakes freighter Mark W. Barker grounded Wednesday on Belle Isle on the Detroit River, but was later refloated without incident.

The Mark W. Barker is known for the being the first U.S.-flagged Great Lakes bulk carrier to be built in nearly 40 years. It was built by Fancantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin and delivered to Interlake Steamship Company in Spring 2022.

Interlake confirmed details of the incident in a statement to gCaptain.

“At approximately 0735 local time this morning, the M/V Mark W. Barker was transiting upbound in the Detroit River passing Belle Isle with a cargo of salt from Cleveland bound for Milwaukee, Wisconsin when it experienced a loss of power and maneuverability,” the statement said.

“The vessel turned to port unexpectedly and the Captain dropped the anchor before the bow grounded on the soft bank of the channel.”

There were no injuries reported and there does not appear to be any risk of pollution or damage to the vessel.

The Mark W. Barker was later freed with the assistance of a tug.

“The vessel was able back away from the bank and get underway to make its way to the Belle Isle Anchorage where the crew will continue to assess the vessel and work to determine the cause of the incident,” Interlake said.

The U.S. Coast Guard says the Mark W. Barker was successfully refloated at approximately 12:10 p.m. with the assistance of commercial towing.

The vessel is carrying approximately 21,000 metric tons of salt and 105,000 gallons of diesel fuel, but remained stable throughout the incident.

“We worked closely with all relevant parties to ensure the safety of our waterways and the prompt  resolution of this incident,” said Lt. j.g. Adeeb Ahmad, Sector Detroit’s public affairs officer. “The  successful refloating of the Mark W. Barker highlights our commitment to maintaining the safety and  continuity of our maritime transportation system.” 

The ship has been assisted by towing vessel to the Belle Isle anchorage, where Coast Guard investigators will be on  scene to assess any damages and ensure repairs are completed as necessary before the vessel resumes its voyage. 

The Mark W. Barker is a new River-Class, self-unloading bulk carrier designed in-house by Interlake Steamship Company, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, and Bay Engineering. The vessel features an innovative cargo hold arrangement and hatch covers designed for maximum cubic space and the ability to handle difficult cargoes.

With a deadweight of 28,000 metric tons, the vessel is used to transport raw materials, such as salt, iron ore, and stone, to support manufacturing throughout the Great Lakes region. The vessel is believed to be the first ship for U.S. Great Lakes service built since 1983.

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