A frequent visitor to the Port of Duluth has a new name. Interlake Steamship Company of Ohio announced that the M/V Charles M Beeghly was rechristened the M/V Hon. James L. Oberstar at a ceremony in Duluth on Tuesday morning. Oberstar’s wife, Jean, had the honor of breaking the champagne bottle on the bow of the boat.
Mark Barker, Interlake’s President, had this to say about the rechristening:
Interlake is honored to be able to recognize Congressman Oberstar’s service and dedication to our Country by naming a vessel after him. Few legislators have made more contributions to Great Lakes shipping and the United States maritime industry.
The last time we changed a name was in 1989, after we bought new boats, so this is a big deal. We don’t do this very often.
Jim Oberstar has been such a champion for maritime, for the Great Lakes and the mining industry, that his impact will never be forgotten. We wanted to honor him for his work and, now that he’s moved on to a new chapter, the timing was right.
Interlake first announced its intention to rename the Beeghly after Oberstar in 2007, but honored the request of Oberstar to reconsider. A truly humble Iron Ranger,Oberstar didn’t feel it appropriate for him to receive any naming honors while still serving in Congress.
This is Interlake’s description of the boat:
The M/V Hon. James L. Oberstar (formerly the M/V Charles M. Beeghly) is 806′ long with a beam of 75′, and has a carrying capacity of 27,500 net tons. The Vessel was built in 1958 at the American Shipbuilding Company in Toledo, Ohio, and christened the Str. Shenago II in 1959. The Vessel has undergone numerous efficiency improvements, including a mid-body insert that increased its length by 96′ in 1972, conversion to a self-unloader in 1981, and repowering from a steam powered vessel to a diesel powered vessel in 2009.
The Charles M Beeghly (now James L Oberstar) has long been a favorite with locals, who await her return as an old friend each spring. While commonly referred to as an ore boat, typically moving taconite from Duluth, Two Harbors, Silver Bay and Marquette to steel mills near Detroit and Chicago, she also occasionally carries coal. The laker is quite impressive as she steams into port under the lift bridge and never ceases to delight both residents and visitors alike.
Originally christened the Shenago II, she was renamed the Charles M Beeghly in 1967 in honor of the then president and chairman of the board of Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation (which merged with Republic Steel to form LTV Steel in 1984).The upgrades in 1972 and 1981 were done at the Fraser Shipyards across the harbor in Superior, Wisconsin.
The real thrill for those of us in northern Minnesota is seeing the M/V Hon. James L. Oberstar steam by the Hon. John J. Blatnik High Bridge, named in honor of Oberstar’s predecessor in congress and fellow Chisholmite.
Jim Oberstar’s dad Louis, proud holder of the first USW union card on the Iron Range, mined the rich red iron ore that was depleted during World War II and raised his family in mining locations. Life in the locations was hard and everything was controlled by the mining companies. Housing was frequently little more than tar paper shanties. Food was scarce. Miners were paid by contract based on how much ore each individual produced (the equivalent of piecework in the garment industry). In retaliation for attempts to unionize, the mining companies shut down the mines for the winter. There was no unemployment or food stamps. Safety was of no concern, as the mining companies viewed the miners, most of whom were immigrants, as easily replaced. When the whistle blew, you knew someone was injured or dead. And of course, there was no worker’s compensation.
The very idea that a kid who grew up in the mining locations of the Iron Range would someday have one of these mighty ore boats named after him was unimaginable.
Even sweeter for those of us whose families fought the Steel Trust is that the name of the son of an iron ore miner from the Range, one of us, is replacing that of the president of a steel company.
This is a video of the Beeghly steaming under the aerial lift bridge