Interlake Steamship Company to Construct First U.S.-Flagged ‘Laker’ in 35 Years

jones act vessel
Photo credit: American Maritime Partnership

Interlake Steamship Company has placed an order for the construction of a new self-unloading bulk carrier, marking the first time U.S.-flagged Great Lakes bulk carrier will be built in the U.S. in more than 35 years.

The new River-Class vessel will transport raw materials to support manufacturing throughout the Great Lakes region. It 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 and 28,000 dwt, the vessel will be constructed in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin with delivery scheduled for mid-2022.

Construction is expected to support some 700 jobs, according to Interlake.

The vessel is being jointly designed by Interlake Steamship Company, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding and Bay Engineering. It will feature a unique cargo hold arrangement and cargo hatch covers designed for maximum cubic space and the ability to handle difficult cargoes. The vessel is designed for 7,800 shaft horsepower produced by two sixteen-cylinder Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) diesel engines that are EPA Tier 4 and IMO Tier III certified. It is expected to have a top speed in excess of 15 m.p.h.

Other Major partners for the project include: American Bureau of Shipping (ABS); Bay Engineering (BEI); EMD Engines; Caterpillar; EMS- Tech, Inc.; Lufkin (a GE Company) and MacGregor.

Interlake newbuild laker
Illustration courtesy Interlake Steamship Company

“When we approached a historic project of this magnitude – building our company’s first ship since 1981 – we knew it was critical to choose the right partners. Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding is the shipyard that has the experience and skill to execute on our long-term vision,” said Interlake President Mark W. Barker, adding that this specific vessel is being built as the result of listening to and addressing the logistical needs of Interlake’s customers.’

“We’ve had a long and positive relationship of partnering with Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding as we have modernized and reinvested heavily in our fleet. They have skillfully handled four repowers, five exhaust gas scrubber installations, as well as regular maintenance and regulatory dry-dockings on our vessels,” Barker added.

The Interlake Steamship Company, headquartered in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, is the largest privately held U.S.-flag fleet on the Great Lakes, with nine vessels carrying bulk cargoes and a rich history dating more than 100 years.

“We are excited to construct this historic large-scale bulk carrier on the Great Lakes for Great Lakes operation,” says Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding’s Vice President and General Manager Todd Thayse. “We are very proud of our long-term relationship with Interlake, and we appreciate their continued confidence in our shipyard and in our shipbuilding team. This new project and our past work are indicative of the quality and attention to detail that our customers have come to expect from Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding. It brings steady employment to the hundreds of women and men we employ from across the region, and the economic benefit to our suppliers and others is widespread,” he added.