Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding (FBS) and the Interlake Steamship Company hosted a ceremonial keel laying June 23 to celebrate the historic start of assembly on the first U.S.-flagged Great Lakes bulk carrier built in more than 35 years. The FBS shipbuilders and more than a dozen Interlake team members stood in a socially distanced manner to watch.
During the ceremony, Interlake Chair James R. Barker proudly revealed that the new vessel would bear the name of his son and second-generation leader of the company, Mark W. Barker.
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, were chosen as the symbolic “young apprentices.”
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, it will transport raw materials such as salt, iron ore and stone to support manufacturing throughout the Great Lakes region.