Interlake Steamship's History
"Pride and Integrity on the Great Lakes Since 1913"
The Interlake Steamship Company was launched in 1913 in a consolidation that brought together all the vessels formerly managed by Pickands Mather & Company under a variety of fleet names. But Interlake's keel was laid earlier with the founding of Pickands Mather & Company in 1883. Along with an interest in Upper Michigan iron range land, the fledgling firm purchased a 13/20 interest in the 1,700-ton capacity wooden steamer V.H. Ketcham.
As the appetites of lower lakes furnaces grew, demand for raw materials from the North increased. By the turn of the century, Pickands Mather owned a number of ships and managed several fleets.
In 1901, major changes occurred in Great Lakes Shipping and Pickands Mather relinquished management of two substantial fleets. Determined to retain Pickands Mather's prominent position in Great Lakes commerce, Harry Coulby directed the formation of two more fleets and construction of new vessels. He secured management of other fleets. When Pickands Mather combined its separate fleets into The Interlake Steamship Company in 1913, the new fleet numbered 39 ships.
In 1916, Interlake built its first 600-foot vessel. Six more followed in the 1920s. To honor the man at Interlake's helm, Str. Harry Coulby was commissioned in 1927. Larger than any other contemporary lake freighter at 631 x 65 feet, she was the first to carry more than 16,000 tons.
Over the years, Interlake continued fleet modernization and expansion. As older, uneconomical vessels were removed from service, new ships were added. Lengthenings, conversions, acquisitions, and new construction increased capacity and diversified the fleet.
In 1972, Str. Charles M. Beeghly received an additional 96-foot midbody section. A similar lengthening of Str. John Sherwin followed. In 1975, Str. Herbert C. Jackson was the first of three Interlake straight deckers converted to self-unloaders.
When M/V James R. Barker entered service in 1976, she was not only four feet longer than the largest existing lake freighter, but also the first 1,000 foot class ship built entirely on the Great Lakes. Interlake's fleet expansion included delivery of three 1,000 footers between 1976 and 1981 - M/V James R. Barker, M/V Mesabi Miner, and M/V Paul R. Tregurtha (formerly M/V William J. Delancey). Each represented an initial construction investment of more than $60 million. Together they added 194,600 gross tons to Interlake's total trip capacity.
Following several Pickands Mather & Company corporate changes, The Interlake Steamship Company became a privately held company in 1987 under the direction of James R. Barker, Chairman of the Board, and Paul R. Tregurtha, Vice Chairman of the Board. The new leadership continued to foster growth, maintain Interlake's position as an industry leader, and enhance customer service.
In April 1989, the three remaining boats of the Rouge Steel fleet were purchased and organized as Lakes Shipping Company, Incorporated, under the management of The Interlake Steamship Company.
In 1997, the idle Str. J.L. Mauthe was converted to the self-unloading Bge. Pathfinder, which began operation in 1998. While this work was progressing, Interlake started construction of a new 7,200 horsepower, twin Z-drive tug, Dorothy Ann. Today, the two form a technologically advanced, integrated tug-barge unit that increases the fleet's versatility.
In 1998, the company moved to to The Interlake Corporate Center in Richfield, Ohio.
In 2000, Interlake Steamship Company became the first US-flag Great Lakes shipping company to receive ISO and ISM certification.
Interlake Leasing III, a subsidiary of Interlake Steamship, secured the bareboat charter of the 1000-foot M/V Stewart J. Cort in 2005.
In 2006 Interlake began its steam-powered vessel modernization program by re-powering the Lee A. Tregurtha with a highly automated Bergen diesel engine power plant.
The modernization program continued with the 2008 repowering of the Charles M Beeghly (now Hon. James L. Oberstar) with a similar power plant to that on MV Lee A. Tregurtha.
In 2010, Interlake re-engined MV Paul R. Tregurtha. The ship's original 30-year-old Pielstick engines were replaced with modern, reduced emissions MAK diesel engines. Following this project, Interlake received the Midwest Clean Diesel Initiative (MCDI) Leadership Award. The award recognized Interlake "for demonstrating outstanding leadership by making significant measurable improvements in air quality through the development and implementation of clean diesel actions."
In 2011 ceremony at Duluth, MN, MV Charles M. Beeghly was renamed Hon. James L. Oberstar, thus honoring the 30-plus years of service that the former congressman has given to the United States and to the State of Minnesota.
Continuing its steam-powered vessel modernization program, the Kaye E. Barker was converted from steam to diesel in 2012 with installation of an identical power plant to that of MV Hon. James L. Oberstar (formerly Charles M. Beeghly).
In May 2012, Interlake Steamship Company moved into its new offices in Middleburg Heights, Ohio.
Today, Interlake is as dedicated to its founding principles as it has been throughout its history. The company remains a major force in Great Lakes commerce and is committed to providing the best customer service on the Great Lakes through innovation, team work, and integrity.