MARQUETTE — United States Senator Gary Peters took a tour around the Honorable James L. Oberstar earlier today.

The Honorable James L. Oberstar is 806 feet long with a carrying capacity of 31,000 gross tons, which equates to over 69 million pounds. The vessel carries iron ore, which is critical for the American Steel and automobile industries.

While aboard the Honorable James L. Oberstar ship, Senator Peters talked about the important role that the United States Coast Guard plays in chopping ice on the lakes. The ice chopping provides accessible shipping lanes to allow the most amount of time for goods to be transported. The pertinence for Senator Peters making the trip to tour the vessel stems from the saliency of Great Lakes shipping to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula region.

“We can’t forget the importance of the great lakes,” said U.S. Senator Gary Peters, “that’s why I’m here learning first hand about how this operation works and ways that I can be helpful in the U.S. Senate, and also just to thank all of the men and women that make this happen. This is part of the heritage, part of the culture of the Upper Peninsula, and really of all Michiganders. The great lakes is something in our DNA and we can’t forget that in addition to being a great recreational opportunity, this is also about the industrial might of America and the economic viability of our state.”

Interlake Steamship Company President Mark Barker was also present for the tour. Companies like Interlake Steamship Company enable the trade of goods and materials through the Great Lakes while providing jobs for the state.

“We play a critical role for Michigan, but we also play a critical role for this nation,” said Interlake Steamship Company President Mark Barker, “we do it in the greenest form, the lowest cost per ton and emission wise. So it’s something we’re proud of. We’re investing immensely into the ships. This ship, you’re on today was re–powered to a very modern engine room in 2009. It is now the first ship in the U.S. fleet to have a closed–loop exhaust scrubbing system on it to lower its emission environmental footprint on it.”

The Great Lakes are deeply rooted with industries that boost Michigan’s economy by supporting over 500,000 jobs throughout the state, while being extremely efficient.

“One ton of material can be transported six hundred miles on one gallon of gas,” added Peters, “so that’s how efficient an ore boat is. So when you consider that we have got to make sure that the ore boats in the Great Lakes continue to be efficient, and continue to operate, and continue to employ folks here in Michigan.”