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The “General Slocum” could still run today, without exemption!

Nov 22, 2007

Rep. James Oberstar has commented an articles by Katherine Kersten in the Minneapolis St. Paul Star Tribune, "Could Oberstar sink the majestic Delta Queen?". He compares the 1904 steam sidewheel excursion boat GENERAL SLOCUM with the Delta Queen today. There is not much to add to this weird idea of comparing these two boats (see Wikipedia for details about the General Slocum disaster in 1904). Just compare it with the safety features of the Delta Queen today …

But there is one fact I’d like to point out as it makes Rep. Oberstar’s comparison even more weird.

The General Slocum won’t be effected at all by the Safety at Sea Law or SOLAS. The Congress won’t be able to stop the Slocum by refusing an exemption even today. That is because she is was not an overnight passenger vessel but just an excursion boat. SOLAS only effects overnight passenger vessels with 50 or more passengers.

Looking closer on the Safety at Sea Law it show how thoughtless Congress has been when making the Safety at Sea Law in 1966. The law effects overnight passenger vessels with 50 or more passengers but it’s explicitly exempting vessels on the Great Lakes. They forgot about exempting boats on the US rivers because there was only one little boat (the Delta Queen) around at this time and they just overlooked her.

Then of course it doesn’t make sense to target such a law only to boats with 50 or more passengers. Is there some significant difference whether 49 or 51 people effected by any kind of disaster? And why applying it only to overnight vessels? Many of the most tragic disasters on steamboats in the (not so good) old times happened to day excursion boats. Why? Because they were much more loosely inspected and often cases of bribary, assuming that the risk on these boats is lower. Overnight passenger vessels rely on their good reputation and on repeat passengers. They can’t afford to be unsafe. This effects their business much more than on a day excursion vessel where tourists do come just once. overnight passenger vessel business is a long-term business and hence safety is much more important to the operators of the boats.

Fact is that the Gen. Slocum would be allowed to operate still today while the Delta Queen might not if the exemption will not be issued.

On the other hand, of course the Slocum won’t operate anyway because she won’t pass Coast Guard inspections. And that’s the other thing with the Delta Queen: She has to pass Coast Guard inspections, anyway, of course. If the Coast Guard finds that she is not safe regardless of an exemption from the Congress they can still refuse the inspection certificate anyway. But then it’s a fair, technical decision and not a political game like it is now when discussing the exemption.

Literally the Safety at Sea Law doesn’t say anything about boats else than that the Coast Guard must not give a certificate of inspection to any boat that doesn’t fulfill the law’s requirements. It does not say the Guast Guard has to give a certificate to any other boat. It’s still the Coast Guard’s decision whether they clear a boat or not. The big difference is that this Coast Guard’s decision can be questioned in court instead of having an obscure political decision for even more obscure reasons.

Congress, Senators and Representatives: Issue an exemption for the Delta Queen and let the Coast Guard do the job as they do on any other vessel.

SIU comments on the Delta Queen

Nov 15, 2007

Eventually, after months of total silence and refusing to comment the case in any way, the Seafarers International Union (SIU) now comments on the Delta Queen  (

In essence, the SIU says they neither "could or would guarantee congressional action on the proposed waiver", but "our [SIU’s] role in helping safely operate the vessel is one reason why the waiver had been granted in years past."

I’d like to remark that the SIU so far did completely ignoring requests for statements and e-mails we sent to SIU officials, not just once. They had the chance to comment, but they didn’t. Several newspaper reporters I talked to personally did contact them for statements and in the best case they got a "no comment" statement. So the question remains why SIU kept silent for such a long time instead of making their position clear from the beginning.

Now that this statement is out, at least their position is somewhat clearer to the public.


Save the Delta Queen Video – a must see!

Nov 11, 2007

Jon Tschiggfrie has produced a marvelous video to save the Delta Queen. The video can be seen at Youtube:

Don’t forget to add the videos to your Youtobe favorites, vote for the video and comment it there. This helps to make the video more popular, hence more people will see it and will learn about the Delta Queen’s struggle for a new exemption from Congress!

Added: Jazzou Jones has announced that $1 from the purchase of each of his “Ragtime Trilogy” music books will be donated to the  production costs for Jon Tschiggfrie’s Save the Delta Queen video. See “Book of the Month” for more in this marvelous river buff collectible item.