Posted on October 26, 2022
The Mark W. Barker came to life at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin marking the first self-propelled, self-unloading cargo vessel built for the Great Lakes maritime trade in over 35-years.
The 639-foot bulk carrier was constructed with U.S. steel from U.S. iron ore mines in Minnesota and Michigan and transported by U.S. vessels to the Wisconsin shipyard. The vessel is a tremendous success story for U.S. shipping and continuing the long-standing legacy of Wisconsin shipbuilding.
Unlike most Great Lakes freighters, the Mark W. Barker has a square-shaped, flat-bottomed cargo hold instead of a traditional V-shaped angled bottom that funnels bulk cargo onto conveyer belts for offloading. The combination of larger hatch openings and additional cargo hold space was designed with future cargoes in mind to include non-free-flowing bulk material such as wind-turbine blades.
In addition, the unloading boom is located on the forward end of the ship, offering flexibility for cargo operations in congested ports. Many Great Lakes customers find the forward boom more advantageous to allow placement of in preferred areas for access at their docks.
This highly versatile River-Class vessel highlights Interlake Steamship Company’s long-term commitment to corporate social responsibility and sustainability. All aspects of the vessel have been designed to ensure that it will have a low environmental impact to the Great Lakes and to those who work aboard.
The new vessel will continue to serve the U.S. Great Lakes maritime trade for years to come delivering the cargo essential to the North American economy.
Wisconsin Congressional Members Advance Critical Great Lakes Maritime Legislation
Thanks to Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI), the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) will be required to show absolute transparency regarding their ability to move maritime commerce and prevent coastal flooding during the winter months on the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes Winter Commerce (Shipping) Act is currently included in this year’s USCG Authorization Bill. The Act ensures that USCG reporting will accurately reflect the reliability of the Great Lakes Navigation System when ice clogs vital waterways where ships must transit to deliver the cargo that keeps American’s employed and the nation moving forward.
The Act also requires the USCG to report on ferry interruptions, like the Washington Island Ferry, and coastal flooding caused by ice jams which form annually in the Great Lakes connecting waterways and tributaries.
The need for additional USCG Great Lakes icebreakers is clear and the Wisconsin Congressional delegation is leading the way on that icy front. The Act authorizes $350 Million for the procurement of another heavy USCG icebreaker for the Great Lakes which would provide much needed resiliency to the Great Lakes maritime system.
Cruise Ships in Wisconsin
Photograph: Viking Mississippi. Viking Cruises
This year alone U.S. Great Lakes shipping companies will invest nearly $87 million in their vessels at shipyards and facilities across the Great Lakes. That includes over $36 million in Wisconsin, $33 million in Ohio, $13 million in Pennsylvania, and over $4 million in Michigan. The work includes replacing steel plating, engine overhauls, navigation equipment updates, and conveyor belt repairs and replacements.
The conveyor belt work is critical as the U.S. Great Lakes fleet of ships are unique with their ability to unload massive amounts of bulk cargo without shoreside assistance. The innovative self-unloading technology allows a 1,000-foot ship to unload 70,000 tons of cargo in eight hours.
Ships that are 40 and 50 years old, or even older, continue to sail the Great Lakes efficiently because of annual maintenance work performed by Great Lakes shipyards, like those at Sturgeon Bay and Superior, paid for by the U.S. owned, U.S. operated and U.S. crewed vessel operators. The freshwater of the Great Lakes allows vessels to sail for decades while ocean carriers must completely replace their vessels frequently due to the corrosive nature of saltwater and a system built around disposal and replacement over maintenance, unlike the Great Lakes fleet.
Constellation Class Frigates
Photograph: US Navy’s first Constellation-class frigate. Fincantieri Marinette Marine
Wisconsin workers are building the future U.S. Navy in Marinette. Fincantieri Marine Group was awarded the first-in-class Constellation (FFG-62) guided-missile frigate contract in 2020 and after refining the detailed design work, commenced cutting American steel in August 2022.
In addition to the lead ship, the contract includes options for nine additional ships valued at $5.5 billion. The first ship is expected to be delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2026.
Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM) was founded in 1942 along the Menominee River in Marinette, Wis. to meet America’s growing demand for naval construction. FMM has since grown into a world-class shipbuilder, having designed and built more than 1,500 vessels.
Fincantieri has invested over $250 million in FMM and other Wisconsin shipyards. It recently completed an extensive capital expansion program transforming a 550,000 square foot operation into a modern shipbuilding powerhouse, to include manufacturing, warehouse, and receiving space, and the capacity to simultaneously build seven Littoral Combat Ships in serial production. FMM employs cutting-edge computer-controlled manufacturing equipment and has heavy-lift capabilities to meet the most demanding requirement.