US Congressman Steve Chabot of Ohio has introduced legislation to allow the historic river boat DELTA QUEEN to once again ply America’s rivers. Paddlewheel included, the DELTA QUEEN is 285 feet long (87 m), the distance across her cambered decks is 60 feet and with a shallow draft of just 9 feet and a flat bottom, the steamer is able to navigate several smaller American rivers. Her gross registered tonnage is recorded at 3,360, but prior to the addition in 1990 of a new, wider, outer hull around the original steel, her gross tonnage was only 1,650 tons. Original net tonnage was 589.
Currently moored in Chattanooga, Tennessee as a boutique hotel, the vessel was partially built in Scotland, shipped in pieces to Stockton, CA and assembled in 1926.
DELTA QUEEN and her twin DELTA KING ran on a regular Sacramento River service between San Francisco and Sacramento, with excursions to Stockton, on the San Joaquin River for the California Transportation Company. In 1940, the two riverboats were laid up. During World War II, the DELTA QUEEN was requisitioned by the United States Navy for duty in San Francisco Bay as USS DELTA QUEEN.
DELTA QUEEN was sold to Greene Line of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1946 and towed to her new owners via the Panama Canal and the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. In 1948, she entered regular passenger service, plying the Ohio, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers between Cincinnati, New Orleans, St. Paul, Chattanooga and Nashville.
From 197o, DELTA QUEEN operated with a presidential exemption to SOLAS regulations prohibiting the operation of overnight passenger vessels with wooden superstructures. Congress continued to grant the 88-stateroom DELTA QUEEN exemptions until 2008, when the Coast Guard and others raised safety concerns, terminating the exemptions.
On February 11, 2009, DELTA QUEEN arrived in Chattanooga, Tennessee where she opened as the Delta Queen Hotel on June 5, 2009.
Current owners, Ambassadors International, listed the vessel for sale in 2008 at a US$4.75 million and a non-profit organization called the “Delta Queen Preservation Foundation” was formed in 2010.
Chabot reported that a group of investors seeking to purchase DELTA QUEEN had worked out an agreement clearing a path for congressional action. Chabot’s proposal would give the storied riverboat a 15-year exemption for overnight passenger operations.
In a statement Chabot said, “A decision will likely be made in the coming weeks on the Delta Queen’s future, and we are introducing this legislation to help ensure that operating as an overnight passenger vessel is a viable option. If we do not act now, she will likely spend the rest of her existence as a stationary hotel moored to a dock, and the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers will have lost one of their great treasures.”
DELTA QUEEN was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland. Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.