The U.S. Senate on Monday passed S.89, a bill to amend title 46 by an impressive vote of 85 to 12 bringing the Delta Queen one step closer to restoring overnight passenger service. Bill S.89 will now move to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration. If passed, this legislation will exempt the Delta Queen from the 1966 Safety at Sea Act (P.L. 89-777) which was intended to prohibit wooden cruise ships from carrying U.S. citizens overnight on oceans far from shore. The legendary riverboat, which in 1966 was the only overnight vessel operating on America's inland rivers, has been barred from carrying overnight passengers since an exemption to the 1966 Safety at Sea Act for the vessel lapsed back in 2008.
Congress immediately passed a law following the 1966 Safety at Sea Act exempting the Delta Queen from the law which was approved nine times over the next 40 years. When the last exemption expired in 2008, the then owners failed to secure a renewal and the vessel became a dockside hotel in Chattanooga, from 2009 until 2014. In 2015, new owners bought the vessel with a mission to completely restore the historic icon and restore overnight passenger service.
“Even before acquiring the vessel, we have been working with Congress to renew the exemption,” said Cornel Martin, president and CEO of The Delta Queen Steamboat Company. “The fact that the U.S. Senate would make time in their extremely busy schedule to consider this legislation is a testament to the importance of the Delta Queen to America’s history. This is a truly important step in our voyage to return theDelta Queen to cruising throughout America’s heartland and Deep South.”
The Delta Queen is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is classified as a National Historic Landmark and has recently been designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a National Treasure.
“The rich history that the Delta Queen will bring to our city perfectly complements our historic destination and will help to develop a greater awareness of Kimmswick,” said Mayor Philip D. Stang, City of Kimmswick. “We are extremely appreciative of the substantial economic impact the Delta Queen will bring to Kimmswick and to all of the ports along her route.”
The vessel’s return to America’s rivers will initiate millions of dollars in repair work, provide more than 175 permanent jobs aboard the vessel and in the company’s corporate headquarters and bring thousands of expected new visitors each year to more than 80 river towns and ports along the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland, Kanawha, Illinois and Arkansas Rivers. The Delta Queen has provided overnight cruises safely on America's rivers for more than 80 years.
“The Delta Queen is the last chance for us to provide Americans and international visitors alike the opportunity to see our great country from the decks of an authentic 1927 paddlewheel steamboat.” Mr. Martin concluded.
In 2013, the House approved similar legislation by an overwhelming vote of 280 to 89. That measure was never voted on in the Senate.
The Delta Queen began service as an overnight passenger vessel in 1927, carrying passengers, cargo and automobiles between Sacramento, Calif. and San Francisco, Calif. After a brief period of service in the U.S. Navy 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 along many of the prominent rivers and waterways running through America’s heartland and Deep South.
For more information, visit www.dqsteamboat.com or follow the Delta Queen Steamboat Company on Facebook.