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Newest Great Lakes bulk carrier sets off on maiden voyage

Courtesy of Interlake Steamship Company
The Mark W. Barker is the first self-propelled bulk carrier built entirely on the Great Lakes in the past 35 years.

The newest bulk carrier on the Great Lakes has launched on its maiden voyage.

The six hundred-and thirty-nine-foot vessel Mark W. Barker is the first self-propelling carrier to be built entirely on the Great Lakes in more than 35 years. A self-propelled ship means it doesn’t need help from tugboats.

Mark Barker is President of the Interlake Steamship Company and namesake of the vessel. He says the ship was designed for the future and will have the capacity to transport wind energy materials.

"The hatches are designed so they can be completely load bearing," said Barker. "So we could put cargo on top of the hatches, we can put cargo inside the cargo holds that we couldn't do with our traditional self-unloading vessels because of the design of the cargo holds."

Barker says nearly the entire vessel was made from iron ore and steel from the Great Lakes region.

"The hall of the ship was made in Burns Harbor, Indiana, and it was made from iron ore mined in Minnesota, carried on other self unloading ships that were made in the U.S.," said Barker.

The freighter is being touted as one of the most environmentally friendly carriers on the Great Lakes. Barker says the ship was designed to carry products of the future like non-free flowing bulk material like wind turbine blades. It’s expected to be in service for 100 years or more.

Rick joined WCMU as a general assignment reporter in March 2022.