Save the Delta Queen: A private initiative to save the steamboat Delta Queen A private initiative to save the steamboat Delta Queen
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A new chance for the Delta Queen (updated)

Mar 30, 2008

UPDATE: It became obvious that the House Leadership will not be helpful in any way, so we’ve decided to change our strategy, now traing to get the exemption fo the Delta Queen through US Senate. Please read more about this here: www.save-the-delta-queen.org/senators-help-saving-the-delta-queen/

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Let’s act quickly — there is a new chance to get the exemption for the Delta Queen for vote to the House of Representatives. We need to contact the House of Representatives’ Leadership and ask them to put the exemption on the suspension calendar as a stand-alone bill (see details below).

There is still no date for the Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill in the House. The Committee on Rules correspondingly hasn’t decided about the amendment for the Delta Queen yet, too.

The House Leadership — namely Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Majority Whip James Clyburn — can bypass the Transportation Committee (and their chairman Rep. James Oberstar) as well as the Rules Committee (even if they don’t approve the amendment to the Coast Guard bill) and send H.R. 3852 directly to the Floor as a stand-alone bill on the suspension calendar. That’s what we’re going to ask them to do right now!

While we’re all waiting for the Coast Guard Bill to move forward, let’s get active again and contact the House Leadership:

  • Contact all three members of the House Leadership and ask them to put the bill “H.R. 3852” directly the floor as a stand-alone bill on the suspension calendar.
  • Stress the fact that this has always been a non-partisan issue and that it needs to remain one.
  • If you have copies of resolutions from your local city council or similar, please attach these to your faxes to the House Leadership (even if you have already sent copies to Congressman Chabot or to your own Representatives).
  • Please keep in mind that fax is still the best way to reach them quickly, but you might send e-mails in addition; two out of the three will accept email from people who are not in their districts.

The Hon. Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
Office of the Speaker
H-232, US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-0100
Fax: (202) 225-4188
Web page to send emails from: http://speaker.house.gov/contact/

The Hon. Steny Hoyer
House Majority Leader
H-107 Capitol Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-3130
Fax: (202) 226-0663

The Hon. James E. Clyburn
House Majority Whip
United States House of Representatives
H-329, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 226-3210
Fax: (202) 225-9253
Web page to send emails from: http://majoritywhip.house.gov/contact/

In parallel to that, one of our supporters will deliver printed copies of the steamboats.org online petitions (more than 1,200 entries) and more than additional 2,700 signatures collected by other members of the Delta Queen support team directly to the offices of the House ledership members in Washington, D.C. this week.

This is another great chance to get the exemption for the Delta Queen. Please, continue to support our campaign, even if you did send faxes, made phone calls, collected signatures before. Let’s keep up steam until we have the exemption for our beloved steamboat, the Delta Queen.

Is this really about safety?

Mar 9, 2008

In this whole discussion, the topic should be; "How safe is the Delta Queen, and is she safe enough to allow her to carry overnight passengers?" Well, I would say that not even this should be the question because free people in a free country can decide for themselves. But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume it’s necessary to protect the people from such risks by law.

How big is the risk to your life when taking a cruise on the Delta Queen? Not just the risk of a fire – well, yes, the Safety at Sea Act affects the Delta Queen only in terms of fire safety, but is it right to say: "We do care about people potentially burning to death, but we don’t care about the same people drowning?" Even worse, is it right to say: "We don’t care about people potentially burning to death only if it’s 50 or more people"? That’s actually what the Safety at Sea Act states.

Aren’t there other risks than fire, too? Does anyone care about these? Just for example – what about a collision with other boats–namely the numerous towboats that are running up and down the rivers – this has happened to the Mississippi Queen before; and it happens between towboats from time to time.

Is anyone seriously thinking of outlawing the running of a boat because it can possibly hit another boat and sink? No, of course not, because that’s part of the nature of boats. That is why we have and believe in navigational rules, in good technology, and in well-trained pilots. These three safety factors make collisions relatively unlikely.

Why is the risk of a fire being treated so differently? Because we’re still feeling like Neanderthal people, being afraid of fire? Because we’re not willing to accept that just because wood makes a great campfire doesn’t automatically mean a boat with a wooden superstructure will burst into flames like a dry fir in a hot summer? Is it because we don’t trust in fire detection systems? The Delta Queen has one of the most modern fire monitoring and powerful sprinkler system onboard ANY boat that is always being observed by two trained crew members in the pilot house, plus a watchman checking the whole boat every 15 minutes, day and night. Why do we trust in technology when it comes to navigational risks, but do not trust in technology for fire prevention and protection? I think you know the answer yourself – it doesn’t make any sense at all.

Let’s check some more facts: What makes a fire so dangerous? It’s not the flames or the heat that makes a fire so dangerous–especially in the beginning; it’s the toxic fumes. If you don’t believe me, please ask at your local fire department. Therefore, in case of a fire it’s extremely important to reach open space, leaving inside rooms as quickly as possible. Now, from this perspective, the Delta Queen is one of the safest boats you can be on. Why? Because almost every stateroom has a direct door to open decks. The few remaining cabins do have a big window to open decks (just smash them and climb out) and there are always at least two exit routes in totally different directions you can take from these cabins. Again, very important, these escape routes are extremely short. It takes you less than approximately 20 to 30 feet to the next door to open decks.

Let’s compare this to one of the mid-sized, ocean-going 3,000-passengers cruise ships. They’re made from steel. But again, ask your local fire department: What burns first? It’s furniture, bed linen, curtains and all the synthetic cloths and other plastic stuff you bring with you. This stuff causes toxic fumes and thick, dark smoke. You want to escape from this as quickly as possible. No difference than if you were on the Delta Queen. But the big difference is the length of the escape routes. They can be 10 times as long as ones on the Delta Queen can. In addition, they’re usually really narrow (not broad salons like on the Delta Queen) and thousands of passengers are using them at the same time. In many cases you’ll have to use a staircase to reach an outside deck, often several floors up. On the Delta Queen the cabins with no direct door to open decks are on the main deck, no staircases involved at all. All other staircases you may need to use are outside staircases.

What I want to say is; You’ll long have left not only your cabin, but have left the entire boat on the Delta Queen before the "wood or steel" question is even a relevant factor in case of a fire on this boat.

This alone should stop all discussions about the safety of the Delta Queen. There are many more factors that separate the Delta Queen in a most positive way from modern cruise ships in terms of safety. But I don’t want to bore you, as this has all been written before.

Just think about it: This is not a safety issue. It can’t be. The safety of the Delta Queen can only be questioned by someone who has no information. One who has never been on the boat, who hasn’t even spent just a couple of minutes on research to find out how safe the Delta Queen really is.

Delta Queen: a public and political affair?

Mar 1, 2008

There is some arguments going on in the background whether the Delta Queen issue mainly is a private problem of a cruise ship company or whether we see a political and public scandal going on here. That is, do we have the right to fight for the Delta Queen, address politicians, call for action to support a bill to save the Delta Queen, blame Unions and other organzations for being negatively involved in this situation?

Let me give you some arguments why I think it’s a highly political issue we’re talking about here:

There is a Representative, namely Rep. James Oberstar (Minnesota), claiming to represent the people of the United States. Being the Chairman of the House’s Transportation Committee, Mr. Oberstar is blocking a bill to exempt the Delta Queen from the Safety at Sea Act in this very committee, not allowing the full House to vote on it at all. Did I mention Mr. Oberstar receives a good share of his fundings from Unions (see Opensecrets.org for details)?

I shoud have, because one of these Unions, the SIU, claims to have nothing to do with the Delta Queen issue, while you can read between the lines in their press release from November 2007 that they very well seam to be involved in this. SIU: "This union has the only pool of unlicensed mariners with special training and a long history of meeting the needs specifically associated with the Delta Queen". Our comment: From many former DQ employees we know that the SIU did not train the majority of the crew – actually most of them just signed their Union contract in the very moment they started working on the boat. SIU: "Our role in helping safely operate the vessel is one reason why the waiver had been granted in years past". Our comment: Now, as they don’t hold an exclusive contract with the operator of the boat any more, their role obviously is a different one, while it’s still the job of the US Coast Guard to make sure the boat is being operated safely, not the job of the SIU.

Rep. Oberstar has discredited himself several times by claiming that his opposition is only based on safety concerns while comparing the Delta Queen with Boing 747 airplanes and a 1904 excursion boat (the General Slucum, which without needing an exemption could still run today, by the way). His comments are demonstrating more than clearly that he has no idea about the DQ’s safety status and features nor does he care much about such details.

Rep. Ron Kind (Wisconsin) in the first place did support Rep. Steve Chabot’s initiative to safe the Delta Queen by co-sponsoring bill H.R. 3852. Just a few days ago, all the sudden, he backed out (according to the LaCrosse Tribune). The reason he is giving for this is "safety concerns", but he doesn’t specify what concerns these are which he must not have been aware of when he signed up to co-sponsor the bill. Fact is, Rep. Kind, like Rep. Oberstar, has been very well funded by the Unions over years (see Opensecrets.org for details).

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has accepted a 2008 nomination of the Delta Queen for the list of "America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places" and also has chartered the Delta Queen for her potentially final voyage in November 2008. But the National Trust is not using its full power to support saving the Delta Queen, so far. Is this because the President of the National Trust, Richard Moe, is a close friend of Rep. James Oberstar and therefore prevents the Trust from taking any further action on behalf of the Delta Queen? We’ve got this information from one single reliable source from within the National Trust, so we must treat it as not much better than a rumor so far, though.

This is not just a private issue!

These are just a few examples of why I think this in fact is a political issue and why I even think this is a high-ranking political scandal.

Where is this country standing in terms of democratic principles when the influence of a Union and/or one single man from Minnesota can decide for a whole nation, by-passing the elected representation of the people?

The foundation of the United States Constitution is the principle of devided powers. Don’t give any single person the power to make decisions on behalf of this country just on his own. Having a well-balanced system of powers in the political system is one of the basic ideas of this Constitution.

If someone tells me that it’s not our business to do and try everything we can to save the Delta Queen, how can he/she look in the mirror the next day? Isn’t one of the basic ideas of this country to defend our freedom, against all odds, no matter what? Isn’t it also about the basic principles of this country to stand up and fight if something is going wrong? That’s what we’re doing here.

We simply don’t accept that dirty political games are the reason for grounding the Delta Queen, a national historic Landmark, an important part of American history, a last-of-its-kind treasure. We only ask for fairness: Let the elected representatives of this countries’ people vote, let them do their job, let them represent the interests of their constituents. That’s all we’re asking for.

Yes, it’s a political issue, no doubt.