Construction of the first U.S.-flagged laker in more than 35 years is underway, and it's using steel produced from Minnesota iron ore.
Commissioned by the Interlake Steamship Company, the future 639-foot freighter will be capable of carrying 28,000 gross tons of cargo and is being built by Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor in East Chicago, Indiana was the source of the steel used in a ceremonial first-cut-of-steel event back in August and is the main steel provider for the entire project, the company said in a news release this week. ArcelorMittal's Minorca mine in Virginia supplies Burns Harbor with iron ore pellets.
Use of the Iron Range's ore is welcomed news to Kelsey Johnson, president of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota.
"You don't often see that the raw product that you're mining then becomes the product that you use to transport the product," Johnson said. "It's a really nice full-circle moment."
The new laker is Interlake's first new ship since the 1,013-foot Paul R. Tregurtha launched in 1981, and is believed to be the first Great Lakes laker made since 1983. Shipbuilding is expected to wrap up in mid-2020.
Gary Mohr, vice president of supply chain management at ArcelorMittal USA, said in a news release that it's fitting a vessel would be built using a product it will one day transport.
"The expansion of Interlake’s fleet will further support water commerce and the movement of raw materials using the safest, most efficient and environmentally friendly method of transportation," Mohr said.
Mark Barker, president of Interlake, said relying on the Great Lakes regions' supply of steel and nearly 700 trade workers at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding helps the entire region.
“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,” Barker said.
That's common across much of the industry, Johnson said.
"We try very hard to make sure that the source of those minerals is coming from a domestic source whenever possible so that we can kind of create our own demand on our system as well," Johnson said.