Our History

The Interlake Steamship Company traces a legacy back to 1883 with the founding of Pickands Mather & Company. In over 130 years, a lot has changed - the ships, the cargos, the technology, the ports, and even the name of our company.

However, one thing has never changed: our dedication to meeting the requirements of customers. For more than 100 years our customer-first philosophy has stood the test of time and been the foundation of growth.

Interlake has helped Great Lakes customers and our region navigate decades of change. As a family-owned company, we will continue to commit to doing whatever it takes to help Great Lakes shipping grow, while providing best-in-class service to the market.

We believe the history of Great Lakes shipping has important chapters yet to be written, and we are committed to shaping this story with a bright future alongside our customers as partners.

Check out our story below


Pickands Mather & Company is purchased from Diamond Shamrock by Moore and McCormack Co. Inc. on April 3. A new Interlake Steamship Company is established.

Pickands Mather officials sign a contract on November 19 with the American Ship Building Company for construction of two 1000’ vessels for the Interlake fleet.


Str. JACKSON is converted to a self-unloader with unloading machinery aft.


The 1004’ M/V JAMES R. BARKER enters service as the longest vessel on the Great Lakes and the first 1000’ class vessel built entirely on the Lakes. 


1000’ M/V MESABI MINER is built. 


Pickands Mather & Company contracts American Ship Building for a third 1000’ vessel. 


M/V WILLIAM J. DELANCEY is christened April 25 and enters service on May 10 as the largest Lakes ship at 1013.5’ x 105’. Her first cargo of 55,944 GT of taconite pellets is delivered to Lorain Pellet Terminal.

Str. BEEGHLY is converted to a self-unloader and completes her first trip as such on May 3.


The Interlake Steamship Company becomes privately held under the direction of James R. Barker.

Pickands Mather & Company is purchased by Cleveland Cliffs Inc. 




Interlake now operates twelve vessels, including four 1000’ class ships. Total per trip capacity is 453,860 GT. The fleet carries about 18 million GT for the season.


Interlake Chairman James R. Barker is honored with AOTOS outstanding achievement award for dedication and service to the U.S. Maritime industry.

Leading the Great Lakes, Interlake introduces Streamlined Inspection Program, a Coast Guard program for self-inspection.


Str. J.L. MAUTHE is converted to self-unloading barge PATHFINDER.

Str. ELTON HOYT 2ND becomes the largest ship ever (698’x70’) to navigate the Cuyahoga River.

PBS sails aboard M/V MESABI MINER to chronicle navigation and Great Lakes lighthouses.


Interlake logs record cargo delivery of 19,300,000 GT.

PATHFINDER (former J.L. MAUTHE) enters service as self-unloading barge.

Interlake moves its corporate headquarters to Richfield, Ohio, from its 85-year history in Cleveland.


Interlake completes Tug DOROTHY ANN to push Barge PATHFINDER. Tug is largest Z-Drive unit in North America at 7,200-horsepower.

Great Lakes water levels drop to a near 50-year low, drastically reducing cargo carrying capacity.


Interlake becomes the first U.S. shipping company on the Great Lakes to receive ISO 9001: 2008 certification for the safe operation of ships and for pollution prevention and only the 2nd U.S. flag company in the world to receive the SQ quality designation.


M/V LEE A. TREGURTHA and M/V CHARLES M. BEEGHLY are repowered with highly automated diesel engines.


M/V PAUL R. TREGURTHA, the largest ship operating on the Great Lakes, is repowered with environmentally compliant MaK diesel engines.

Interlake receives the Midwest Initiative Clean Diesel Award.


M/V CHARLES M. BEEGHLY is renamed M/V HON. JAMES L. OBERSTAR to become the first Laker to take on the name of a former member of Congress.


M/V KAYE E. BARKER is repowered.

Interlake moves to its new corporate headquarters in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, after breaking ground on August 5, 2011.


Interlake becomes first U.S. flag fleet to pioneer freshwater scrubber technology on the Lakes. M/V HON. JAMES L. OBERSTAR is outfitted with the exhaust gas scrubbers to remove majority of sulfur and particulate matter from stack emissions. The emission-reduction technology creates a signature plume of clean steam.


M/V HERBERT C. JACKSON is repowered with highly automated MaK diesel engines.

M/V JAMES R. BARKER and M/V LEE A. TREGURTHA are retrofitted with exhaust gas scrubbers.

Interlake completes 10-year, $100 million fleet modernization progam.


M/V Mesabi Miner is outfitted with exhaust gas scrubbers.