Save the Delta Queen: A private initiative to save the steamboat Delta Queen A private initiative to save the steamboat Delta Queen
FAQ | How can I help? | Press Room | Whitepaper | Contact

Media looking for pictures of the Delta Queen? Please check our website www.cruisediary.de for picture downloads.

FAQ – What you need to know about the Delta Queen

Jan 20, 2008

What is the problem with the Delta Queen?

The Str. DELTA QUEEN operates under a special Congressional Exemption from the 1966 Safety of Life at Sea Law (Public Law 89-777). This law forbids any vessel, foreign or domestic, from operating from a United States port carrying over 50 overnight passengers if it is constructed primarily of wood. The exemption is running out on Nevember 1, 2008 and all efforts so far failed to renew this exemption for the years to come.

Is the Delta Queen safe?

In short: Yes, she is safe! But by law, boats with wooden superstructure can not carry 50 or more overnight passengers. Remember: The Delta Queen has a double steel hull, but the superstructure is partially of wood.

Now, first of all, there shouldn’t be a fire on any boat or ship at all. There is a lot that can be done to prevent a fire from starting in the first place. And of course on the Delta Queen everything is being done to comply with top-of-the-notch safety standards of these days.

But let’s face it: There is no 100% guarantee that there won’t be a fire, on any boat in the world – no matter how much safety features a boat offers. So a very important question is: What happens in case of a fire? How quick are passengers being trapped by the fire? How quick can passengers be evacuated? How effective is the sprinkler system? How effective is the monitoring system, so a fire is detected as quick as possible, before it becomes big?

It’s very important to know how long a structure withstands the fire until it collapses. That’s much more important than the question whether the material itself is burning or not, because the dangerous fumes (which are the main problem in a fire, not the flames and heat itself!) are being produced by burning furniture etc already long before any kind of superstructure catches fire. Wood burns and is being consumed by a fire (in case of the DQ, slowly because it’s hardwood, not Pine or something similar!). Metal doesn’t burn, but it’s melting! And it transfers heat quickly throughout the structure as it’s a very good heat conductor. While wood is isolating the heat and keeps the heat local.

Passengers need to be evacuated before a structure collapses. Ask experiences firemen – they tell you that they feel much saver entering a burning wooden building than a metal construction. That’s because wooden structures are very stabile even when burning and it’s easier to estimate when they collapse, while metal when melting are collapsing all the sudden (see WTC and other steel buildings).

By the way, the DQ’s superstructure is not completely made of wood. Many years ago they built in metal structures within wooden colums to give the structure even more stability and then they wrapped the wood back around the metal. You don’t see the steel, but it’s there.

And, probably most important on the Delta Queen: She has extremely short escape routes. Almost every cabin has an outside door. With just a few footsteps you’re on open decks. From every place on the boat you have the option of several different escape routes. The boat is never far away from land. In case of a fire, the pilot simply grounds the boat within minutes, passengers leave their cabins through their outside door and walk right on land to safety. Compare this to big cruise ships in the middle of the ocean and you can see how ridiculous it is to use a law that is made for huge ocean going cruise ships for such a small riverboat like the Delta Queen.

Why does Congress refuse the exemption for the Delta Queen?

Any bill in Senate and House of Representatives has to pass the appropriate committee, in this case the Transportation Committee in the House and the Commerce Committee in the Senate. The chairmen of both committees, Rep. James Oberstar and Sen. Daniel Inoyue, are strictly opposing the exemption for not very clear reasons and therefore block any bill according the Delta Queen in their committee. There are ways around this, though: a) If there are enough co-sponsors to a bill. it can go directly to the floor of the full House of Representatives. b) If we can raise enough public attention to this issue, we might "convince" the committees to overcome their actual position and let the bill through. Hey, many of these members of the committees are running for re-election this year!

What does the Coast Guard say?

The Coast Guard was always opposing the exemptions for the Delta Queen, even in the past, for reasons we think don’t have much to do with her safety. More than that, just as an example: The Coast Guard asked for a new fire monitoring and sprinkler system in 2000 and the company built that in (see above for details). She has a new, very modern system – on order of the Coast Guard. now the same CG tells us she’s not safe.

Remember: The exemption (hopefully) issued by the Congress just gives the Coast Guard the right to issue a certificate of inspection for the Delta Queen. The Coast Guard still has to take care of frequent, thoroughly inspections of the boat and can refuse the certificate in case the boat is not considered safe.

I’ve heard that the Unions are part of the problem?

It’s said that Unions, namely the Seafarer’s Internation Union (SIU) is strongly opposing the exemption for the Delta Queen and is using her influence on politicians in this cause. There is no evidence for that, even though it’s pretty likely if you can read between the lines of their "SIU statement on Delta Queen". What ever the case is, we can’t change the SIU’s behaviour and we can’t change anything what they don in this cause. So let’s just forget about this (except you’re a high-ranking member of the SIU and are willing to help the Delta Queen ;-)

How can I help?

see details on the "How can I help?" page. 

 

12 Comments »

12 Responses to “FAQ – What you need to know about the Delta Queen”

  1. Bob D. Wright Says:

    Hi Save the Queen
    I own the Kennon Doyle, a 57′ long sidewheeler in Stockton, Ca., it to has a steel hull and mostly of wood superstructure. I offer not just my sympathies I offer my boat a B&B to your organization for the purpose of saving the Delta Queen in any capacity I can.
    If there is any event, function, charity drive or use as a fund raiser please give me a call. 209-471-2600 or bobdwright@clearwire.net. The Kennon Doyle is tied up only about 3/4 mi. from where the King and Queen were built.

  2. Bob D. Wright Says:

    Hi save the Queen
    I too have a steel hull paddleboat with a near all wood superstructure. The soon to be B&B, Kennon Doyle is 57′ overall and is a sidewheeler, it is featured in the Mar. ’08 issue of ASA. I not only offer my sympathies I offer my riverboat in any capacity I can to save the Queen.
    The K.D. is tied up about 3/4 miles from where the King and Queen were built. Name your posion, a fund raiser
    charity drive what ever. 209 471-2600.

  3. Mrs. Bettie Russo Says:

    I have left comments on other areas of this site, but, feel strongly that we must all do whatever we can to help save the Delta Queen. I have been a passenger on the Delta Queen in the past, and will be again in about two weeks. I put my life on the line with complete trust in her safety. It is an honor to look upon her Majesty on the river. It is a profoundly moving, patriotic moment when I step upon her decks. To hear her steam engines start to turn, and the paddelwheel begin to
    churn brings tears to my eyes. We MUST ensure that the next generation of Americans will be able to experience their American Heritage on her decks. We must become “the squeeky wheel” and do everything in our power to help protect the Delta Queen. Please follow the directions on this site and help do everything we can to help keep her a part of the lifeblood of America.

  4. Ronald A. Fossum Says:

    The argument about the crew not being able to properly respond to a fire aboard is so much hogwash. I live in Portland, Oregon and today, April 8, 2008 the “Queen of the West”, an overnight sternwheeler operated on the Columbia River by the same people who operate the “Delta Queen”, experienced a fire in the engine room. The Coast Guard was notified but by the time the Coast Guard arrived, the fire had been extinguished by a well trained crew. The event was covered by KATU-TV (a local news channel) and several passengers interviewed. All had the highest praise for the manner in which crew members handled the crisis. Crews on this company’s vessels are well trained.

  5. The Rev. Bruce Smith Says:

    My wife and I travelled on the DQ in 2004 and the AQ last year. I was on the MQ 30 years ago. But, it is the Delta Queen that we really loved and will miss her if she is retired.

    I have wondered just how serious Majestic America Lines is about saving her… Does anyone have any idea on that?

  6. This is why the Delta Queen is more than just an old boat Says:

    […] A private initiative to save the steamboat Delta QueenFAQ | How can I help? | Press Room | Whitepaper | Contact […]

  7. Jim Randall Says:

    It would not surprise me if the “not very clear reasons” referred to above for the Congressmen’s opposition to extension of the exemption were rooted in knowledge of an economic/business decision made earlier by the Delta Queen’s new owner, Majestic America Lines, to discontinue operation of the Delta Queen.

    With its advanced age, higher maintenance and insurance costs due to the steam propulsion and wooden structure, and higher crew-to-passenger ratio, it is undoubtedly much less profitable to operate than a newer vessel. The corporate restructuring of the Delta Queen Cruise Line in 2006 would have led to an examination of the economic viability of each of their cruise vessels and routes. The expiration of the exemption then becomes a convenient excuse to retire the Delta Queen.

    Has anyone in the leadershipo of this Save the Delta Queen movement had a frank, factual discussion of the Delta Queen economics with Majestic America Lines management?

  8. Maritime Monday 132 Says:

    […] Why does Congress refuse the exemption for the Delta Queen? – Any bill in Senate and House of Representatives has to pass the appropriate committee, in this case the Transportation Committee in the House and the Commerce Committee in the Senate. The chairmen of both committees, Rep. James Oberstar and Sen. Daniel Inoyue, are strictly opposing the exemption for not very clear reasons and therefore block any bill according the Delta Queen in their committee. There are ways around this, though: a) If there are enough co-sponsors to a bill. it can go directly to the floor of the full House of Representatives. b) If we can raise enough public attention to this issue, we might “convince” the committees to overcome their actual position and let the bill through. Hey, many of these members of the committees are running for re-election this year! – FAQ at Save the DELTA QUEEN […]

  9. Susan Watts Says:

    Save The Delta Queen. My husband and I took our honeymoon on the Delta Queen many years ago. It was so wonderful. It is an experience we will never forget.
    Please don’t let the Queen be retired. She has a lot of good years ahead of her yet.

  10. larken mason Says:

    This boad is a part of America’s History.
    My Grandfather was stationed on the Deltan Queen in 1942. he’s getting up there in years but he would like to be able to walk her decks one more time. Is this possible? The D Q is where he was billeted during his training for his 2nd mate license in the Merchant Marines.

    we only heard of this in the last 2 weeks because we live in Mississippi

  11. larken mason Says:

    I meant boat

  12. Douglas Voyles Says:

    I grew up in a riverboat town on the Ohio being able to see and hear the Delta Queen come thru the locks and dam 44. I always had the desire to take a trip on it sometime in my life but as on today I have never been able. I am now 66 years old, and my desire to travel the river on it is just as strong now as when I was a boy. Please do not retire the wonderful life and boy time dream of mine.

Leave a Reply