Peters Tours Great Lakes Freighter, Highlights Importance of Commercial Shipping for Michigan

MARQUETTE, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) toured the Hon. James L. Oberstar ship today in Marquette to discuss the importance of Great Lakes shipping to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula region. While there, Peters discussed the importance of the Great Lakes to enhancing trade opportunities and creating jobs in Michigan and underscored the vital role of the U.S. Coast Guard in Great Lakes shipping operations. Lake Carriers’ Association Chair and Interlake Steamship Company President Mark Barker joined Peters for the tour.

“It’s wonderful to be in the Upper Peninsula to see firsthand how shipping companies like Interlake Steamship Company are enabling the trade of goods and materials through the Great Lakes while providing good-paying jobs for our state,” said Senator Peters. “The Great Lakes are an economic engine for Michigan, and commercial shipping plays a key role in driving our growth. I’m committed to ensuring commercial freighters have access to shipping lanes here so they can get their product to consumers and grow their businesses.”

“The best way to understand how the U.S.-flag fleet invests in vessel improvements and America’s future is to see it in person, and I am pleased to welcome Senator Peters to Marquette and our ship,” said Mark Barker, President of Interlake Steamship. “The Honorable James L. Oberstar was launched as a steamship, later repowered with a modern diesel engine, and remains on the cutting edge of technology with a first of its kind marine engine exhaust gas scrubber. In addition to touring the Marquette dock, Senator Peters saw a vessel, crewed by Michiganders and commanded by a Michigan native load Michigan iron ore bound for a Michigan steel mill.”

The Hon. James L. Oberstar vessel is an 806-foot freighter with a carrying capacity of 31,000 gross tons. Originally built in 1959, the vessel was renamed in 2010 after former Congressman Jim Oberstar of Minnesota, who served as Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and earned a reputation as an expert in Congress on transportation issues. The vessel will be carrying iron ore, which is critical for the American steel and automobile industries, to the Detroit area.

Ships on the Great Lakes carry 163 million tons of cargo annually and are more efficient than rail or trucks, which gives agricultural, mining, and manufacturing in the region a competitive advantage. The Great Lakes are deeply intertwined with key industries that drive our state’s economy, supporting more than 500,000 jobs in Michigan.

Earlier this year, Peters had the opportunity to visit the Coast Guard’s Bristol Bay icebreaker and see firsthand how important these operations are to Michigan’s shipping industry. The U.S. Coast Guard and their icebreaking operations are critical to making sure these shipping lanes on the Great Lakes are accessible.

Peters is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, where he focuses on supporting economic growth and enhancing Michigan’s role as a transportation and logistics hub for trade, manufacturing and innovation. As a member of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, he is focused on supporting the Coast Guard and ensuring it has the resources it needs to continue maintaining shipping lanes and conducting its law enforcement, port security and safety duties, and the many other vital services that Michigan businesses rely on.