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Joe Ruch


The Interlake Steamship Company
Richfield, Ohio
32 Years in the Industry


As a boy growing up in Detroit, Joe Ruch remembers always seeing the ships out on the water. While he was drawn to them, his first choice for a career was to be an airline pilot. Little did he know that being a pilot was in his future. 

After briefly working at Chrysler to save money for college, Ruch enrolled in the Parks and Recreation program at Michigan State. While visiting his college roommate during Christmas break, Ruch stopped by the Great Lakes Maritime Academy and spoke with the recruiter. “That was 1975. I knew I loved being outdoors, and the recruiter explained that maritime jobs paid well and had good benefits. That was important to me.”

Ruch graduated with his 1st Class Pilot license and, in 1979, was hired by The Interlake Steamship Company as a 3rd mate. He was quickly promoted to 2nd mate, and has been with the company ever since. Ruch remembers the 1980s and the downsizing that shook the industry. During that time he held a variety of positions, and is grateful for that fact that he was never without work. “This is a great company. They understand the needs of the men and women who work for them, and the needs of their families.”

Promoted to captain in 1993, Ruch is responsible for everything that happens on his ship – from administrative duties, to serving as the company representative, to ensuring the lives of his crew, and the safety of his ship and its cargo. Ruch and his crew are typically away from home for 60 days followed by 30 days off.  The married father of five understands what his crew goes through on each transit. “Since we’re away for a long period of time, motivating the crew and being sensitive to family needs is very important. Flexibility is paramount.”

Ruch is currently the captain of the re-engined M/V Hon. James L. Oberstar (formerly the M/V Charles M. Beeghly), a 806 foot self-unloading bulk carrier with a carrying capacity of more than 35,000 net tons per trip. “The new diesel engines are vastly more fuel efficient – reducing her fuel per day intake from over 12,000 gallons to 6,000 gallons or less have made her even more fuel efficient.”

“What I love about my job is that each day presents new challenges, and being on the water is breathtakingly beautiful.”