Modern laker Mark W. Barker embarks on maiden voyage

Written by Marine Log Staff
modern laker

Modern laker Mark W. Barker is far from being a repeat of earlier generation Great Lakes bulk carriers [Photo: Interlake Steamship Company]

Nearly three years after the first cut of steel for the first Great Lakes freighter in nearly 40 years, the 639-foot modern laker M/V Mark W. Barker has completed sea trials and yesterday embarked on her maiden voyage from Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding.

“This is a monumental day for our company and the U.S. 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,” said Mark W. Barker, president of The Interlake Steamship Company and namesake of the vessel – the company’s first new build 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 M/V Mark W. Barker departed the Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin shipyard at 10:36 Eastern time for her 110-mile journey to Port Inland, Michigan where her crew of 21 professional mariners will load stone to deliver to Muskegon, Michigan. Once delivered, that stone cargo will go into ready-mix concrete production.

The modern laker is very far from being a repeat of the vessels built four or more decades ago.

“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,” said Brendan P. O’Connor, Interlake’s 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.”

The Mark W. Barker will be the first ship on the Great Lakes with engines that meet EPA Tier 4 emissions standards. She is powered by twin EMD main engines generating 8,000 total horsepower that turn a single four-blade, controllable-pitch propeller through a Lufkin twin-input, single-output gearbox. She is outfitted with 1,000-hp Kongsberg bow and stern thrusters and a Kongsberg high-lift rudder optimizes the wake through the vessel’s controllable pitch propeller.

Under construction since August 2019, the M/V Mark W. Barker was built by hundreds of dedicated workers at the Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, shipyard.

“We couldn’t be prouder to add this skillfully constructed vessel to our growing Interlake fleet,” said Barker, who was at the shipyard this week to personally wish the best to the ship’s crew fitting out the new vessel. “It has been genuinely inspiring to see the dedication and workmanship from all of those involved in this multi-year project, from the design, construction, final outfitting and successful sea trials. We are thrilled to add our newest U.S.-crewed, U.S.-built and U.S.-owned vessel to the Great Lakes fleet.”

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