A U.S.-flagged Great Lakes bulk carrier will be built for the first time in more than 35 years. The Interlake Steamship Company recently awarded a contract to Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding to build a new River-class, self-unloading bulk carrier.

It is believed to be the first ship for U.S. Great Lakes service built on the Great Lakes since 1983. The ship will transport raw materials to support manufacturing throughout the Great Lakes region.

The 639'x78'x45', 28,000-dwt vessel will be built at Bay Ship in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. Interlake Steamship, Middleburg Heights, Ohio, is the largest privately held U.S.-flag fleet on the Great Lakes, with nine vessels that carry bulk cargoes. It's newest vessel, the Paul R. Tregurtha, was built by the American Ship Building Co., Lorain, Ohio, in 1981. The 1,013'x105'x56' vessel has a capacity of 68,000 tons, and is the longest vessel on the Great Lakes.

Interlake Steamship, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding and Bay Engineering are jointly designing the bulk carrier, complete with advanced vessel and unloading systems automation.

The new self-unloading bulk carrier has a unique cargo hold arrangement and cargo hatch covers designed for maximum cubic space and the ability to handle difficult cargoes. The vessel incorporates a flap rudder as well as bow and stern thrusters for high-level maneuverability.

The vessel will have 7,800 shaft horsepower produced by two 16-cylinder EMD Tier 4 and IMO Tier III diesel engines that are EPA Tier 4 and IMO Tier III certified. The vessel is expected to have a top speed in excess of 15 mph. The vessel will be propelled by a single-screw, 18’-dia., Kongsberg, controllable pitch propeller.

For electrical power, the vessel will have one 940-kW ship service diesel generator, two 2,500-kW shaft generators and one 274-kW emergency generator.

“When we approached a historic project of this magnitude — building our company’s first ship since 1981 — we knew it was critical to choose the right partners," Interlake President Mark W. Barker said in a statement. "Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding is the shipyard that has the experience and skill to execute on our long-term vision. We’ve had a long and positive relationship of partnering with Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding as we have modernized and reinvested heavily in our fleet. They have skillfully handled four repowers, five exhaust gas scrubber installations, as well as regular maintenance and regulatory drydockings on our vessels.”

“We are excited to construct this historic large-scale bulk carrier on the Great Lakes for Great Lakes operation,” Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding’s Vice President and General Manager Todd Thayse said. “We are very proud of our long-term relationship with Interlake, and we appreciate their continued confidence in our shipyard and in our shipbuilding team."

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.