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Freighters or ships of the Great Lakes are called "Lakers". This is a picture of the iconic ship "Edmund Fitzgerald" that sank back in 1975 on Lake Superior.
Lakers
Ships of the Great Lakes are also known as "Lakers". One of my favorite things to do when visiting the Great Lakes is to watch for freighters sailing the open water. Lakers are such a large part of our history and our culture here in Michigan. They help our economy keep moving and transport our natural resources to other places along the Great Lakes. After living in the U.P. in a mining community, it's hard not to develop a true understanding of what those freighters mean for the people of this Great State. 
  

Here is some more information on those marvelous freighters that we simply call "Lakers." 


Great Lake vessels carry bulk cargoes. These cargoes often include one of our many natural resources. This includes coal, limestone, iron ore, grain, or salt. They transport many of these goods from the mine to a mill where the goods are transformed into something useful for us. 


Lakers can vary in size. The largest of the fleets are 1,000 footers. Because of their size, they are confined to only traveling the upper Great Lakes; Superior, Erie, Michigan and Huron. They are too massive to fit through the St. Lawrence Sea Way. However, smaller freighters are able to make the voyage from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic along the St. Lawrence Seaway. 

The Great Lakes shipping season begins in March and ends in January. Ships are taken in for repairs while the crewman join land life once again. This is the time when the mariners get to spend time with their families and friends. 


Since Lakers are confined to only the Great Lakes and her fresh water, ships are able to remain in service much longer than Ocean ships. The salt water reeks havoc on the ships metals which in turn creates shorter life spans. 

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This is a picture of "Salties" or Ocean Vessels. If you look at this picture and the picture above, you can see dramatic differences between the "Salties" and the "Lakers". Both pictures were taken from Wikipedia.
Just a little info on the Ocean Vessels.... 


Salties 

Ocean vessels are known as "Salties" around the Great Lakes region. They earned this nickname because they come visiting the Great Lakes from the salt filled oceans. Only certain ships can make the travel from the Atlantic Ocean, along the St. Lawrence Seaway, and into the Great Lakes. Salties have different dimensions than many of the Great Lakes freighters. Larger Ocean vessels do not travel to the Great Lakes because of their additional beam, much like the larger Lakers do not travel to the Atlantic. A ships size determines whether or not they can make the voyage because of the size restrictions of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Salties often visit to pick up loads from Great Lakes ports to take out to Atlantic Ocean ports. However, they are only able to take a partial load while sailing through the Great Lakes because of their deeper draft and lower buoyancy in the Great Lakes fresh water. They will then fill up the rest of their load after departing the St. Lawrence Seaway


Information taken from Wikipedia.org on November 15th, 2013.
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Taken from Great-lakes.net.