WASHINGTON — It’s a boat.
The Interlake Shipping Company has decided to rechristen an 806-foot-long laker after Jim Oberstar, the long-time chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which (among other things) oversees Great Lakes shipping. The 8th District, which Oberstar represented from 1975 until after he lost to Chip Cravaack this past November, includes the Port of Duluth, where the laker frequently ports.
“Interlake is honored to be able to recognize Congressman Oberstar’s service and dedication to our Country by naming a vessel after him,” said Interlake President Mark Baker in a statement. “Few legislators have made more contributions to Great Lakes shipping and the United States maritime industry.”
Literally speaking, this isn’t a small honor. Details on the James L. Oberstar (boat), from the Richfield, Ohio-based Interlake:
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.
Ironically, Interlake tried to name the ship for Oberstar once before, in 2007, but Oberstar told the firm it wasn’t appropriate to name something after him during his service, and they changed it back.
Oberstar was often a lone or nearly alone voice opposing naming things after lawmakers. “He always told me he never wanted to hear anyone say they’d gotten stuck on the Jim Oberstar bridge,” spokesman John Schadl said, recounting a frequent Oberstar joke.
But the tributes have started coming anyways. An Illinois Democrat has also proposed naming the federal Department of Transportation building after Oberstar. During an exit interview with MinnPost, Oberstar conceded that he’d no longer be able to block such tributes. “If Dan persists, that’s a mark of great respect and appreciation, it’s very nice,” he said then.
More on the ship’s renaming from the Interlake Shipping Company.
Also, since I was curious and you may be too, here’s information on the boat’s now-former namesake, the late Mr. Beeghly.