Steel Cut on First Great Lakes Bulker Built in Last 35 Years

jones act vessel
Photo credit: American Maritime Partnership

Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding has started construction on the first U.S.-flagged Great Lakes bulker in more than 35 years.

A ceremonial steel cutting ceremony was held Wednesday by Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding and Interlake Steamship Company at Fincantieri’s facility in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

“The first cut of steel is a major milestone that signifies we, along with Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, are ready to begin production on this historic project,” says Interlake President Mark W. Barker. “We are extremely proud to build our company’s first ship since 1981 on these freshwater shores with the hardworking women and men who help power our industry and with American-made steel from the iron ore we carry on our U.S. flag fleet vessels. It’s a true Great Lakes success story.”

The 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.

Measuring 639 feet in length (78 feet W, 45 feet H, 28,000 DWT), the ship will transport raw materials to support manufacturing throughout the Great Lakes region.

The Interlake Steamship Company, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding and Bay Engineering are jointly designing the bulk carrier, complete with advanced vessel and unloading systems automation.

Delivery is scheduled for for mid-2022.

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.   

“Our workforce is very proud to begin construction on what will become a “homeport ship” so to speak,” says Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding’s Vice President and General Manager Todd Thayse. “This large-scale bulk carrier will be built on the Great Lakes and operate right here on the Great Lakes, which creates a sense of local and regional pride. Today’s ceremony with Interlake was a great way to demonstrate how excited and appreciative we are for their continued confidence in the quality of our work.”