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A public hearing will not help the Delta Queen

Apr 29, 2009

In the discussion about the US Army Corps of Engineers permit for mooring the Delta Queen at Chattanooga a small group of Delta Queen supporters is asking for a public hearing. Save-the-delta-queen.org is opposing this, and I’d like to explain why.

First of all, in the period until May 4, 2009, everyone can write to the US Army Corps of Engineers, commenting on that public note announcing the plans to give permission for a permanent moorage facility for the Delta Queen at Chattanooga. So what ever concern anyone has, he can express this concerns in this formal procedure.

Asking for a public hearing is just another chance to express concerns. What ever concern someone can rise in this hearing can be raised in a written comment right now, too. Still, this group is asking you to request a public hearing. Why? Because they’re misusing the instrument of a public hearing to delay the opening of the Delta Queen hotel, in worst case to the infinite. That’s actually their goal – not letting the Delta Queen hotel go into business at all.

What does this mean to the Delta Queen? Let’s be honest: Nobody will save the Delta Queen (i.e. spending a lot of money) just for romantic reasons. The Delta Queen can only survive when she is the foundation of a profitable business. Delaying the opening of the Delta Queen hotel will damage this business, if not totally ruining it depending on how long this hearing will delay process. This would result in no business, hence no money to take good care of the boat.

To make this very clear, again: No, I’m not happy seeing the Delta Queen being moored and being operated as a hotel in the long term. But right now, in this moment, this is the only realistic chance for her to survive. And we’re even lucky that the owner, Mr. Phillips, has a sense for the historic uniqueness of the Delta Queen and really cares for the boat. In the long term we still need someone with quite a lot of money to buy and operate her as a cruise vessel on the rivers. We’d also like to encourage any investor to get in contact with Mr. Phillips to discuss opportunities and plans for maybe running the Delta Queen for a couple of weeks or months per year or what ever will help to bring her back to the rivers as soon as possible.

But until then, we really need a caretaker, based on a good business that makes the money to finance the caretaking. Delaying the hotel opening with a public hearing about the mooring permit for sure will damage this, probably heavily.

How permanent is “permanently moored”?

Apr 28, 2009

I think there is a misconception about the word “permanent” in the context of the Army Corps of Engineers permit to moore the Delta Queen “permanently”. We’re talking about a bureacratic act; one of many permits necessary to operate a hotel business on the Delta Queen. “Permanent” here doesn’t mean “for the rest of our lives”, it’s just the contrary of just having two or three loose lines for a temporary port stop for a few hours.

Very understandable, authorities will not allow a hotel business on a boat that’s not moored very tightly to make sure it doesn’t turn loose in a storm or flood. We’ve talked to the construction firm who is building this mooring facility – what they’re doing is just welding a few mooring rings or such to the DQ so she can be connected to the mooring facilities tightly, i.e. in bureaucrat’s language “permanent”. This easy to be removed and doesn’t touch the DQ’s integrity as a cruise vessel at all.

Also, don’t mix up this permit to permanently moor the Delta Queen with the official status of a Permanently Moored Vessel (PMV), assigned by the Coast Guard. (Maritime Safety Manual, Vol. II Chapter B4-44).

Discussion about a permit for permanently mooring the Delta Queen

Apr 26, 2009

Just as a short notice about a discussion that is going on right now about a permit to "permanentely" moor the Delta Queen at Chattanooga; We'd like to avoid confusion and therefore clarify: The group who was sending out that "Save the Delta Queen Release" is not speaking on behalf of the Save-the-delta-queen.org website. (You can find the text of that release on Nori Muster's website www.steamboats.com).

But while steamboat people may differ on how to proceed, Save-the-delta-queen.org strongly agrees that we all want to see the Delta Queen kept in working order so that she might go back to the cruise business if the legal conditions improve.

Save-the-delta-queen.org's position on this is as follows. We would like to see the "permanent" mooring permit issued with additional restraints to make sure there will not be any structural changes to the Delta Queen (especially in case Ambassadors International sells the boat) so she can in fact be easily re-activated as an overnight passenger vessel once she receives a new exemption from Congress. The leasing contract between Ambassadors International and the operators of the Delta Queen Hotel at Chattanooga contains an agreement that "the Delta Queen will still be maintained in operating condition and able to return to cruising service at any time" (citing Sydney Slome, operator of the Delta Queen Hotel). But additional restraints on the mooring permit will also be applicable for the case that the Delta Queen is being sold and therefore the agreement from the leasing contract is no longer valid. Our concerns in this respect are not based on distrust towards Capt. Harry Phillips and Sydney Slome at Chattanooga but due to the obscure behavious of Ambassadors International (AMIE) in the past and the obviously very difficult financial situation of AMIE.

You can follow the discussion about this topic at the steamboats.org message board in the "A Response from Delta Queen Hotel" thread. For details of the public note about this permit for permanentely mooring the Delta Queen at Chattanooga.