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America’s Newest Laker Loses Power and Briefly Grounds Near Detroit

Laker grounds near Detroit
Mark W. Baker lost power and maneuverability veering to the edge of the river (Youtube)

Published May 17, 2023 6:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S.’s newest laker, the first introduced in 35 years, had what the U.S. Coast Guard is calling an “electronics malfunction,” this morning causing her to ground in the Detroit River. The Mark W. Barker owned by The Interlake Steamship Company was refloated about four hours later but not before she had become a local tourist attraction and the attention of the media.

The 639-foot vessel loaded with 21,000 metric tons of salt departed from Cleveland, Ohio, and heading to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She left port around 7:00 a.m. and according to one local observer, as she started to make a turn in the channel near Belle Isle, near Detroit, Michigan, she suddenly turned sideways and drifted to a stop on the river’s edge. The USCG reported she ran soft aground in the mud at the edge of the river.

As word of the grounding spread, news helicopters and reporters flocked to the river as well as residents. Many said it was the closest they had ever been to a big ship like the Mark W. Barker.

 

 

 

Spokesperson for the company Chrissy Kadleck told the Detroit News the ship “experienced a loss of power and maneuverability,” at about 7:30 a.m. this morning. “The vessel turned to port unexpectedly and the ship’s captain dropped the anchor before the bow grounded on the soft bank of the channel,” Kadleck told the newspaper.

The U.S. Coast Guard reported that river traffic was not impacted while they were working with the company and the Canadian Coast Guard on a rescue plan. A commercial towing vessel was brought in and at 12:10 p.m. the USCG said the ship was reported as freed from the mud. The decision was made to have the tug escort the Mark W. Barker to the Belle Isle anchorage.

Coast Guard investigators will be on the scene to asses any damages and ensure repairs are completed as necessary before the ship resumed its voyage. They said the ship remained stable during the incident and afterward there was no immediate sign of pollution.

Placed into service last summer, the vessel was built at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. She is The Interlake Steamship Company’s first newly built vessel since 1981 and is unique as a new U.S.-built laker.

It was the company’s second grounding incident in the Great Lakes in a month. In late April, one of the most historic vessels on the lakes, the 71-year-old Kaye E. Barker grounded near Muskegon, Michigan on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. She was also quickly freed with the authorities later blaming the incident on a build-up of sand in the river and the need to do further maintenance dredging near the harbor entrance.