The Delta Queen, an overnight steamboat that once travelled many rivers including the Mississippi and Arkansas, will be back in action soon. The ship had been beached since 2008 when it didn’t receive a congressional exemption from the 1966 Safety at Sea Act that prohibits boats with wooden superstructures from sheltering overnight guests, according to the Delta Queen Steamboat Company.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday night (Nov. 27) passed by voice vote without opposition the Coast Guard Authorization Bill including language that will allow the Delta Queen to travel America’s rivers once again, Delta Caucus Director Lee Powell said. This is the final Congressional vote on the legislation that the Delta Caucus and many other Delta Queen supporters have been supporting for 10 years now, he added.
The Senate passed the bill 94 to 6, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign the Coast Guard Authorization bill.
Passage of the bill means that the Delta Queen will return to its travels on the Mississippi, Arkansas and Ohio rivers. Company officials said the boat has an exemplary safety record and there will be additional layers of safety precautions added by the ownership. The boat is a national historic icon that will educate many people across the country about the great legacy of steam boating and its owners say it will generate tourist dollars in the many ports where it stops.
Cornel Martin, CEO of the Delta Queen company, grassroots supporters from the Delta Caucus and other organizations fought hard to keep the boat traveling on America’s inland waterways over the past 10 years, despite many trials and tribulations, Powell said. The Delta Grassroots Caucus is an advocacy organization for the Greater Delta Region from Missouri and Illinois down through Memphis and Arkansas to New Orleans.
A lot of the media coverage of the Delta Queen’s plight contained incorrect information, Powell said. Many press reports said the ship was completely wooden, which he said is not true. About 75% of the ship is made of steel and other non-combustible materials. The ship also stays within a hundred or so yards of the shore.
The Delta Queen was built in 1927, and has traveled more than 2 million miles. The Safety at Sea Act requires water vessels to be constructed of non-combustible materials if 50 or more people stay on it overnight. During the next 40 years, the ship received a waiver nine times, but in 2008 none was granted.
The ship has detection and suppression systems and about 1,200 sprinklers, according to the company. The ship’s current owners bought the vessel in 2015. Plans are underway to modernize its boilers, generators, fire protection systems, and the crew will receive specialized fire fighting training. The company hopes to start accepting overnight passengers in 2020.