First Great Lake-Built Freighter in Nearly 40 Years


The International Steamship Company’s Mark W. Barker christened on Cleveland’s waterfront in August 2022 is the first Great Lakes freighter built on freshwater lakes in almost 40 years. Constructed at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, the freighter is built of iron ore mined in Minnesota and forged into steel plates at Cleveland Cliff’s Burns Harbor mill in Indiana. 

“This is truly a historic celebration for our Company and for the United States maritime industry as we proudly christen the newest vessel to join the U.S. flag fleet on the Great Lakes and our first new build in 41 years,” says Mark W. Barker, president of The Interlake Steamship Company and the vessel’s namesake. “While this ship may bear my name, it is a testament to the innovation, skill and grit of our employees who have powered our industry and propelled our Company for more than 130 years.”

The 639-foot vessel will help transport Lake Erie-mined salt for Cargill Inc., contributing to the vibrant shipping industry in the Great Lakes, which supports nearly 150,000 jobs and represents $35 billion in economic impact. In addition, the Mark. W. Barker will be the first ship on the Great Lakes with an engine that meets EPA Tier 4 emission standards.

“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,” says Brendan P. O’Connor, 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 her square-shaped cargo holds, her larger hatch openings, reinforced cargo hatches which can support deck cargo, and a forward mounted unloading boom. She truly was designed to be a vessel for the future.”

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