Weather Forecast


Historic shipyard builds on its niche

The historic Fraser Shipyard in Superior is building on its niche by building Lake Assault Boats. The company bought the small boat manufacturing operation started in Elk River, Minn., to build the company's line of custom fishing boats, landing craft and emergence response vessels. (Jed Carlson/

The origins of the last remaining shipyard in the Twin Ports can be traced to Capt. Alexander McDougall -- the inventor of the whaleback.

McDougall moved his shipbuilding operations from Duluth in 1889 to a piece of undeveloped land adjacent to Howard's Pocket -- about a mile from the island where the last remaining of McDougall's whaleback ships is berthed.

Today, that shipyard is known as Fraser Shipyard.

But in 1896, it was the launching point for the Franklin D. Roosevelt, the original incarnation of the one-of-a-kind ship today known now as the SS Meteor on Barker's Island.

The shipyard remains viable today because of its ability to provide a variety of services to keep shipping on the Great Lakes on the move.

Fraser Shipyards offers a broad range of services including new construction, underwater and topside repairs, floating repairs, vessel lengthening, boiler repair and reconstruction, repowering, hull work and propulsion system repairs. Self-unload, automation and general fit out is also available. The shipyard also provides inspections for insurance, Coast Guard certifications and marine surveys.

Fraser services Great Lakes freighters, cement vessels, tugs, and barges operating in shipshape condition.

While the company has long been sought out for its ability to keep the Great Lakes shipping industry afloat, Fraser shipyards got back in the building business a little over a year ago when the company acquired Elk River, Minn.-based Lake Assault Custom Boats, which builds custom fishing boats, landing craft and emergency response vessels for police and fire departments and search and rescue operations.

The acquisition provided Fraser Shipyard with the opportunity to again manufacture vessels.

Founded in 2003 by Jerry Atherton, the company was growing faster than its facilities and workforce could handle, so Atherton sold the business to Fraser in December 2009, which had the facilities and workforce to keep up with demand. Atherton stayed with the company as its director of sales and product development.