Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill Would Save Last Remaining Historic Steamboat
Statement by Stephanie Meeks, president & CEO
Today the House of Representatives passed the Coast Guard Authorization bill which includes provisions enabling the historic Delta Queen steamboat to return to overnight operation as a passenger vessel. The bill will now head to the president’s desk for signature. The following is a statement by Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation:
“The Delta Queen is the last of her kind—our only remaining link to the sternwheel steamboats that plied our rivers centuries ago. We commend the Senate bill’s original cosponsors, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and House bill original cosponsor, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) and the many other members of Congress who have supported this legislation, for their leadership in enabling the Delta Queen’s return to overnight passenger travel. We are confident that she can again safely provide a unique and enriching overnight experience for current and future generations, while bringing new energy and revenue to the ports she visits along the way.
“We urge the president to sign this legislation, to set this historic steamship on a new journey, and keep the last vestige of a proud chapter in our American maritime history alive.”
Constructed in 1926 as an overnight passenger vessel, the Delta Queen was listed on the National Register in 1970 and was awarded National Historic landmark designation in 1989. With a steel hull and a wooden superstructure, the Delta Queen must have a statutory exemption from the Coast Guard’s fire retardant materials regulations in order for it to carry more than 50 overnight passengers. Between 1966 and 2008, Congress renewed the Delta Queen’s SOLAS exemption nine times. In 2008, SOLAS exemption expired, threatening the ship’s ability to remain economically viable. Regaining SOLAS exemption will allow the Delta Queen to cruise overnight with a full complement of passengers, ensuring her ability to generate enough revenue to keep her in good operating condition. It should be noted that SOLAS exemption does not relieve the vessel’s ownership from safety responsibilities. In fact, in order to operate the ship, the owners are required to obtain a Certificate of Inspection every four months to address safety concerns raised by the United States Coast Guard. In 2013, the Delta Queen was designated as a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.