Keel Laid and Name Revealed for New Great Lakes Bulk Carrier

leader of ship repair and maintenance companies
June 23, 2020

STURGEON BAY, WISCONSIN, June 23, 2020: Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding and The Interlake Steamship Company hosted a ceremonial keel laying Tuesday, celebrating the historic start of assembly on the first U.S.-flagged Great Lakes bulk carrier built in more than 35 years.

The keel is the foundation of the ship, and after more than nine months of engineering and pre-fabrication work of its modular sections by the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding (FBS) team, the keel was laid within the shipyard’s large graving dock in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. More than a dozen team members from Interlake, along with the shipbuilders of FBS, stood in a socially-distanced manner to watch.

Modern ships are now largely built in a series of pre-fabricated, complete hull sections rather than being built around a single keel. The event recognized the keel laying as the first joining of modular components, or the lowering of the first modules into place in the graving dock. This tradition dates back to the times of wooden ships and is said to bring luck to the ship during construction as well as the Captain and crew later in life.

During the ceremony, Interlake’s Chairman James R. Barker, proudly revealed the new vessel would bear the name of his son and second-generation leader of the Company, Mark W. Barker.

“This ship is more than the steel assembled here by Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding,” said James R. Barker, who has led the family-run company for more than three decades. “This ship represents Interlake’s determination to be an active and responsible participant in all aspects of Great Lakes trade.”

“This ship is being named for my son, Mark W. Barker, to recognize the many contributions that he has made to the Company, the industry, and to our community. In addition, this naming reflects the successful management team that he has put together,” Barker told the crowd. “Finally, it reflects that we are a family company and our commitment to staying one.”

The naming and keel laying also signifies that Interlake and Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding are well underway on this historic project.

“Our workforce is very proud to construct what will become a “homeport ship,” says Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding’s Vice President and General Manager Todd Thayse. “This large-scale bulk carrier is being built on the Great Lakes and will operate right here on the Great Lakes, which creates a sense of local and regional pride. Today’s

ceremony with Interlake and the naming of the vessel really brings this ship to life. We are excited and appreciative for Interlake’s continued confidence in the quality of our work.”

During the keel laying ceremony, there is a coin-setting tradition of having the youngest apprentice place newly-minted silver and gold coins under the keel upon which the ship will be constructed. Luke and Eli Barker, sons of Mark W. Barker and third-generation members of the family company, were chosen as the symbolic “young apprentices.” The brothers collected coins from various Interlake officials and tucked them in a bag, which they nailed into an oak block upon which the keel was set. When the ship is finished, the owners and others are presented with the block and coins, with both pieces becoming a part of the ships’ artifacts.

“It is truly amazing to have a ship that is built here in Wisconsin and made from steel from Indiana that came from iron ore mined in Minnesota with U.S. crews, U.S. workers, and U.S. miners all doing this for our great Country,” said Mark W. Barker, President of Interlake. “This is just an amazing story that I am absolutely privileged and so proud to be a part of as we continue the long tradition in this Country of building, running and operating the U.S. fleet.”

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 such as salt, iron ore, and stone to support manufacturing throughout the Great Lakes region.

The Interlake Steamship Company, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding and Bay Engineering jointly designed the bulk carrier, complete with advanced vessel and unloading systems automation. Scheduled for completion in mid-2022, the carrier is being built by FBS’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); ArcelorMittal, Bay Engineering (BEI); EMD Engines; Caterpillar; EMS-Tech, Inc.; Lufkin (a GE Company), Kongsberg and MacGregor.

Media Contacts:

Melissa Wollering, Fincantieri Marine Group, Senior Manager – Communications at 715.587.2993

Chrissy Kadleck, Interlake Steamship Company, Public Relations at 440.935.1275

About Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding

Located in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding (FBS) is an industry leader in the construction, conversion and repair of large ships – tracing its rich history back more than 100 years. The diversified FBS portfolio includes all types of vessels including articulated tug-barge units, dredges and dredging support equipment, automated loading carriers, ferries and offshore support vessels. On the repair side, FBS is expert at managing critical deadlines in the repair and sustainment of bulk carriers and other ships of the Great Lakes Winter Fleet.

Shipbuilding facilities at the 63-acre plant include a large graving dock, a U.S. Navy-certified drydock, and lifting capacity to meet the most demanding requirements. Erection buildings are climate-controlled and equipped with sophisticated computer-aided manufacturing equipment. Fincantieri’s skilled workforce has extensive shipyard construction experience, in-house engineering, and a management team focused on client satisfaction and on-time delivery.

Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding is an operating unit of Fincantieri Marine Group (FMG), the United States division of global shipbuilding giant Fincantieri.


About Fincantieri

Fincantieri is one of the world’s largest shipbuilding groups and has built more than 7,000 vessels in over 230 years of maritime history. It is a leader in cruise ship design and construction and a reference player in all high-tech shipbuilding industry’s sectors, from naval to offshore vessels, from high-complexity special vessels and ferries to mega-yachts, ship repairs and conversions, systems and components production and after-sales services. Fincantieri operates in the United States through its subsidiary Fincantieri Marine Group (FMG). This company, which serves commercial and government customers in the USA, including the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, has three shipyards (Fincantieri Marinette Marine, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding and Fincantieri ACE Marine) located in the Great Lakes.


About The Interlake Steamship Company

As the largest privately held U.S.-flag fleet on the Lakes, Interlake has been carrying the bulk cargoes that have been fueling the region’s economy together with its predecessors for more than 100 years. A second-generation, family run company, Interlake is propelled by a long-term vision to make its fleet of nine vessels the most efficient and environmentally responsible in the shipping industry. The Company has invested more than $100 million to modernize and improve its ships to safely and reliably transport 20 million tons of raw materials annually, including iron ore and flux stone for the steel industry, stone for the construction industry, coal for power generation and salt for de-icing needs on roads and highways. Interlake employs about 400 men and women who live and work in the region and the cargoes they deliver help generate and sustain more than 103,000 jobs in the eight Great Lakes states.




Headquarters Washington DC
655 15th St NW, Suite 450
Washington, DC 20005
Fincantieri Marine Group - GBO
2465 Marina Circle
Green Bay, WI 54304
ACE Marine
201 S Pearl Street
Green Bay, WI 54303
Marinette Marine
1600 Ely Street
Marinette, WI 54143
Bay Shipbuilding
605 N 3rd Avenue
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235