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Fraser project sparks interest

Although Fraser Shipyards is working on seven different vessels this winter, the Herbert C. Jackson has attracted the lion's share of attention. Wednesday, state Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Delta, travelled through the 689-foot laker, which is undergoin...

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Employees of Fraser Shipyards and Northern Engineering work on the interior of the Herbert C. Jackson, preparing the space for new, fuel-efficient engines in Superior Wednesday. The multi-million dollar re-engine project sparked the interest of Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Delta, who toured the ship. Maria Lockwood

Although Fraser Shipyards is working on seven different vessels this winter, the Herbert C. Jackson has attracted the lion’s share of attention.

Wednesday, state Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Delta, travelled through the 689-foot laker, which is undergoing an engine transplant. When it sails out of Superior in June, the Interlake Steamship Co. vessel will no longer be steam-powered.

"I heard about the re-engine and the fact that they’re actually taking out one set of engines and putting in another," said Bewley, senator for the 25th District. "This is the ultimate in recycling. I mean, think about it. We have a ship that was made in 1959 that’s got a lot of good years left in her and what do you need to do? Well, you need to make her more efficient and more compatible with today’s fuels and with the industry itself."

The fact that Interlake Steamship Co. chose Fraser and Northern Engineering for this multi-million-dollar re-powering project is a feather in our cap, Bewley said, and a source of maritime industry employment. But those weren’t the only reasons the senator dropped by the Superior shipyards for a tour.

"I just wanted to see it," she said. "If it’s big and dirty, I love it. So I got to go on board and take a look around."

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The scope of the project, with work taking place on multiple levels inside as well as outside, amazed her.

"Imagine if you will we had this ship with its stack on it. They take the stack off, move it aside, gut it, take everything out and down to the sides of the ship," Bewley said. "And then put in the newest and the best machinery involved to power this vessel for another 20-30 years. It’s just the right thing to do and the right place to do it."

A crew of 60 is working on the ship in two shifts, orchestrating the many components and processes involved in replacing the Herbert C. Jackson’s engine. The project gives passers-by a look at what makes a laker tick, Bewley said.

A barge beside the dry dock holds the scrap; the vessel’s reusable components are being pulled out and set to the side; new engines rest next to the stack, ready to be lowered in. The dual-fuel engines are more efficient and EPA compliant, said Fraser Shipyards President James Farkas.

"It’s just utilizing a cleaner fuel, a more efficient fuel and I guess actually safer as well," he said. "New engines are more compact. The old engines have a lot of steam lines. Steam, as you can imagine, super-heated water, it’s dangerous so it’s a safer way to go about it as well."

The Herbert C. Jackson is a common visitor to the Twin Ports

"She generally loads taconite and/or coal up here in Minnesota, normally out of Duluth or Superior, and sails it down river through the Soo Locks and into Detroit, Chicago, and Muskegon, Cleveland, those sorts of areas," Farkas said.

He said that although she’s an old ship, she’s still effective due to upgrades.

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"We think about the navigation systems, the electronics systems, those are all upgraded on the vessel, now the engines will be upgraded as well with a new fuel-efficient engine," Farkas said. "It just allows that ship to maintain its usefulness."

With 225 years of combined experience, Fraser Shipyards and Northern Engineering are integral in keeping ships like the Jackson afloat. Every winter, boats dock in Superior for structural and mechanical upgrades. The enterprise is a good fit for the busy Twin Ports harbor.

"The vessels are here often, because of the amount of stuff that’s loaded here … so it’s important for there to be a group of people capable of providing services to keep those ships sailing safely," he said.

Bewley and Farkas encouraged motorists to drive along Connor’s Point and take a look at the work in progress.

"It’s a great opportunity for people to see exactly what kind of things could have been inside of that ship," Bewley said.

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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