Construction starts on first US-built Laker for 35 years

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche
ShipInsight

16 August 2019


Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding and The Interlake Steamship Company hosted a ceremonial first-cut-of-steel event this week, celebrating the historic start of construction on the first US-flagged Great Lakes bulk carrier built in more than 35 years.

The new River-Class, self-unloading bulk carrier is believed to be the first ship for US Great Lakes service built on the Great Lakes since 1983. Measuring 639 feet in length and 78feet beam the 28,000dwt 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.

Scheduled for completion in mid-2022, the carrier will be built by Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding’s nearly 700 skilled trade workers and will generate business for partnering contractors, vendors and suppliers. 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.

After careful preparation by Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding’s blast and prime team, its fabrication team prepped and then cut the steel with automated precision within the shipyard’s largest fabrication building 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,” said 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 US flag fleet vessels. It’s a true Great Lakes success story.”

“Our workforce is very proud to begin construction on what will become a “homeport ship” so to speak,” said 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.”

The first plate of steel used in the ceremony was sourced from ArcelorMittal’s Burns Harbor steelworks location. ArcelorMittal is the premiere steel provider for the project.

“ArcelorMittal is privileged to serve as a steel supplier for the newest bulk carrier on the Great Lakes,” said Gary Mohr, Vice President of Supply Chain Management at ArcelorMittal USA. “The expansion of Interlake’s fleet will further support water commerce and the movement of raw materials using the safest, most efficient and environmentally friendly method of transportation. The construction of a new bulk carrier is a great example of how the steelmaking process comes full circle.”

“The Interlake Steamship Company is always proud to build locally, supporting surrounding communities and states – a legacy that we began more than 100 years ago,” Barker said. “We live and work in the Great Lakes region and promoting growth and the positive economic impact of Great Lakes shipping is integral to our mission and vision as a leader in this industry.”