Congressman Seeks to Revive Delta Queen Operations
PHOTO: An Ohio congressman introduced legislation that would allow the historic Delta Queen to sail again. (Photo courtesy of Franz Neumeier, www.steamboats.org)
A congressman from Cincinnati, Ohio, has reintroduced legislation to allow the historic Delta Queen steamboat to once again operate overnight passenger voyages on U.S. rivers.
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot’s legislation comes just two weeks after a newly formed Delta Queen Steamboat Company purchased the 1927-built paddlewheeler in hopes of operating it again as soon as 2016.
“The Delta Queen is a national treasure that belongs on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers,” Chabot said. “Now that the Delta Queen has been purchased by a group that plans to return her to passenger service, it is time for Congress to act. This legislation, which will allow the Delta Queen to resume operations as an overnight passenger vessel, enjoys strong bipartisan support, and I am cautiously optimistic it will be approved by Congress. And I think President Obama is likely to sign it into law, since he had cosponsored similar legislation when he served in the Senate.”
Chabot’s proposed legislation — which was co-sponsored by many other representatives from states along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers — would restore an exemption from federal law for the Delta Queen until 2028 and open the door to the ship resuming overnight passenger operations.
In 1966, Congress passed the Safety of Life at Seas Act (SOLAS), which banned wooden ships from carrying 50 or more overnight passengers at sea. Although SOLAS was intended for ocean-going ships, the Delta Queen, with a steel hull and wooden superstructure, became subject to its provisions after the U.S. Coast Guard expanded the law to include boats operating on inland waterways. The Delta Queen was the only boat impacted by the expansion.
Still, from 1968 until 2008, the Delta Queen received nine consecutive Congressional exemptions from SOLAS and continued to safely operate overnight river cruises.
When the most recent exemption was set to expire in 2008, Chabot introduced legislation to extend it for another 10 years but the motion failed despite broad bipartisan support. The Delta Queen lost its exemption on Nov. 1, 2008, and then spent several years as a permanently moored hotel in Chattanooga, Tenn.
The Delta Queen operated on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers for more than 60 years and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
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