Bay Shipbuilding Partners with Interlake to Build First Great Lakes Bulk Carrier in Nearly Four Decades

A U.S.-flagged Great Lakes bulk carrier will be built for the first time in more than 35 years thanks to a historic agreement recently signed between the Interlake Steamship Company and Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding.

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. The ship, which will transport raw materials to support manufacturing throughout the Great Lakes region, also represents hundreds of good-paying jobs for U.S. merchant mariners and Wisconsin shipyard workers.

Measuring 639 feet in length (78 feet wide, 45 feet tall, with a capacity carry of 28,000 tons), the vessel will be constructed in Sturgeon Bay.

The Interlake Steamship Company, headquartered in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, is the largest privately held U.S.-flag fleet on the Great Lakes, with nine vessels carrying bulk cargoes and a rich history dating back more than 100 years.

“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. Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding is the shipyard that has the experience and skill to execute on our long-term vision,” said Interlake President Mark Barker, adding that this specific vessel is being built as the result of listening to and addressing the logistical needs of Interlake’s customers.

“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 dry-dockings on our vessels.”

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

“We are excited to construct this historic, large-scale bulk carrier on the Great Lakes for Great Lakes operation,” said Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding’s Vice President and General Manager Todd Thayse. “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. This new project and our past work are indicative of the quality and attention to detail that our customers have come to expect from Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding. It brings steady employment to the hundreds of women and men we employ from across the region, and the economic benefit to our suppliers and others is widespread.

“We are well equipped to build the size and style of this vessel,” Thayse continued. “We won’t need to make any changes to our shipyard or equipment to successfully carry out the project. However, past upgrades and investments in our waterways (dredging and deeper berths), fabrication building, lifting capacity and investments in our design technology all contribute to us continually securing new construction business of all kinds.”

Scheduled for completion in mid-2022, the carrier will be built by Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding’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, Bay Engineering, EMD Engines, Caterpillar, EMS-Tech, Lufkin (a GE Company) and MacGregor.  

“The Interlake Steamship Company is also extremely proud to build locally, supporting surrounding communities and states – a legacy that we began more than 100 years ago,” Barker said. “We live and work in the Great Lakes region, and promoting growth and the positive economic impact of Great Lakes shipping is integral to our mission and vision as a leader in this industry.”


This newest 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.

Environmentally friendly

All aspects of the vessel have been reviewed to ensure that it will have a low environmental impact to the Great Lakes and to those who work aboard. The hull has been optimized for efficiency, and all systems have been designed to ensure low energy consumption.

Power and speed

The vessel is designed for 7,800 shaft horsepower produced by two 16-cylinder Electro-Motive Diesel engines that are EPA Tier 4 and IMO Tier III certified. It is expected to have a top speed in excess of 15 mph.


The vessel will be propelled by a single-screw, 18-foot-diameter, Kongsberg, controllable-pitch propeller.

Electrical Power

For its electrical power requirements, the vessel is provided with one 940 kW ship service diesel generator; two 2,500 kW shaft generators; and one 274 kW emergency generator.