In his 47-year Congressional career, former Congressman Jim Oberstar has received many honors. But few are as big â€“ literally â€“ as the announcement that The Interlake Steamship Company will rename and rechristen one of its massive ships the MV Hon. James L. Oberstar this spring. The vessel will sail from layup in March as the MV Hon. James L. Oberstar, and will be rechristened in a ceremony at Duluth later this spring.
The ship stretches longer than two-and-a-half football fields â€“ 805 feet to be exact â€“ with a beam of 75 feet and a current carrying capacity of 31,000 gross tons. Built in 1959 at the American Ship Building Company in Toledo, Ohio, and later modified at Fraser Shipyards, Inc. in Superior, Wisconsin, the vessel is currently known as the MV Charles M. Beeghly.
â€œItâ€™s a big ship that will be renamed for one of the giants of Congress,â€ said Mark W. Barker, president of Interlake Steamship Company. â€œJim Oberstarâ€™s commitment to America in general and our region in particular is truly as big as the Great Lakes.â€
Barker said it is the first time one of the huge Great Lakes lakers has been named for a US legislator.
Oberstarâ€™s tenure on Capitol Hill stretched over nearly a half century â€“ 11 years as a senior Congressional aide and 36 years as a member of Congress. Most recently he served as the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he earned a reputation as Congressâ€™ primary expert on transportation issues.
He was well known as a tireless champion of maritime issues, particularly those on the Great Lakes. He represented the Iron Range in Minnesota, a region that depends on shipping to move iron ore pellets to market, often through the Port of Duluth, the westernmost and largest port on the Great Lakes.
Oberstar frequently spoke of his father, an iron ore miner, who was particularly proud of his sonâ€™s connection to the Great Lakes shipping industry.
The Interlake Steamship Company, headquartered in Richfield, Ohio, operates a fleet of nine self-unloading bulk carriers on the Great Lakes. Interlake, a family owned business, is one of the largest U.S.-flag fleets operating on the Great Lakes, and carries approximately 20 million tons of bulk cargo throughout the Great Lakes annually. Those cargoes include iron ore, low- sulfur coal, grain and limestone. The Interlake Steamship Company was founded in 1913, but its roots can be traced back to 1883.