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Region-made steel used in first Great Lakes bulk carrier built in more than 35 years

Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding and Interlake Steamship Co. take part in a steel-cutting ceremony before building a Great Lakes bulk carrier.

Northwest Indiana-made steel is being used to build the first new U.S.-flagged Great Lakes bulk carrier constructed in more than 35 years.

Steel plate forged at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor in Porter County is being used by Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding and the Interlake Steamship Co. to build the new boat at a shipyard in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Workers there held at first-cut-of-steel ceremony Wednesday, marking the start of construction.

“The first cut of steel is a major milestone that signifies we, along with Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, are ready to begin production on this historic project,” Interlake President Mark W. Barker said. “We are extremely proud to build our company’s first ship since 1981 on these freshwater shores with the hardworking women and men who help power our industry and with American-made steel from the iron ore we carry on our U.S. flag fleet vessels. It’s a true Great Lakes success story.”

The first plate of steel for the ship came from ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, which is the premier steel provider for the project.

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“ArcelorMittal is privileged to serve as a steel supplier for the newest bulk carrier on the Great Lakes,” said Gary Mohr, vice president of Supply Chain Management at ArcelorMittal USA. “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. The construction of a new bulk carrier is a great example of how the steelmaking process comes full circle.”

The new River-Class self-unloading bulk carrier measures 639 feet in length and will be used to transport raw materials like iron ore for steelmaking across the Great Lakes. It's the first Great Lakes ship built in the Great Lakes region since 1983.

The work should be completed about halfway through 2022.

“Our workforce is very proud to begin construction on what will become a 'homeport ship' so to speak,” said Todd Thays, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding’s vice president and general manager. “This large-scale bulk carrier will be built on the Great Lakes and operate right here on the Great Lakes, which creates a sense of local and regional pride."

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.