Will the Beloved Delta Queen Sail Again?
PHOTO: Will the beloved Delta Queen paddlewheeler, a National Historic Landmark, sail on rivers through America’s heartland again? (photo courtesy of Franz Neumeier, www.steamboats.org)
Has the beloved Delta Queen Steamboat Company been reborn?
A recently formed Delaware limited liability company resurrecting that name says it has purchased the 1927-built Delta Queen from TAC Cruise LLC, which is part of Xanterra Parks and Resorts.
The new owners say the Delta Queen could be back steaming on the Mississippi River as soon as 2016.
“Our goal is to have the Delta Queen return to cruising America’s waterways in 2016 following extensive mechanical and hotel renovations,” said Cornel Martin, president and CEO of Delta Queen Steamboat Company. “My partners and I are thrilled to be taking this critical first step toward the preservation and restoration of this important piece of American and river history.”
The new company finalized the purchase on Feb. 17,.according to a statement on its Facebook page. The sale was confirmed by a Xanterra spokesperson.
Delta Queen said on Twitter that a new website is in the works:
Official website to launch soon!— Delta Queen (@DQSteamboat) February 20, 2015
However, the new owner of the National Historic Landmark vessel did briefly address the issue of whether it can legally sail on the rivers again.
“There is still a long way to go until the Delta Queen can again paddle down the rivers with overnight passengers onboard as she needs the exemption law from Congress and a Coast Guard certificate of inspection (COI),” the company said on its website. “But the first important step is done now.”
The Delta Queen stopped sailing in 2008 after it lost a federal Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) exemption that allowed it to operate overnight cruises, despite being built with wood, considered a fire risk. The vessel had received the exemption 40 years before that.
“I think politics was at play in 2008,” said Brian Griffith, a spokesman for Rep. Steve Chabot, a Delta Queen supporter. “That law was meant for seafaring ships and was never meant to apply to inland vessels.”
Chabot, a Republican from Cincinnati, Ohio, introduced legislation in May 2013 to reinstate the Delta Queen’s grandfathered status from the 1965 legislation outlawing wooden boats. He previously noted that the Delta Queen had state-of-the-art fire detection and suppression systems and was never more than a mile from land. The congressman also said back then that the interested ownership group was notified that boilers and other equipment would need to be replaced or upgraded before the Coast Guard would clear it to operate.
Griffith said Chabot’s bill needs to be introduced again in the new congress and is “currently in the works, and should be done soon, probably in the next couple of weeks.”
After it was banned from sailing, the Delta Queen operated as a dockside hotel in Chattanooga, Tenn., from 2009 until last year.
The Delta Queen began service as an overnight passenger vessel in 1927, carrying passengers, cargo and automobiles between Sacramento and San Francisco, Calif. After a brief period of service during World War II, the vessel was sold as war surplus to Captain Tom Greene, owner of the Greene Line Steamers of Cincinnati, Ohio.
From 1946 to 2008, the Delta Queen operated as an overnight cruise vessel on river and waterways through America’s heartland, including the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland and Arkansas rivers. It was the flagship of the former Delta Queen Steamboat Company, American Classic Voyages and then Majestic America Line. Xanterra acquired the vessel in 2011, when it purchased Windstar Cruises and other assets of bankrupt Ambassadors International Inc., which had operated Majestic America Line.
Martin is a former executive at American Classic Voyages, which at one time owned Delta Queen Steamboat Company. According to his LinkedIn profile, Martin served as vice president-corporate affairs for those two companies from 1993 to 2001.
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