Delta Queen backers say safety will be addressed

Monday, February 6, 2017
Passengers aboard the Delta Queen enjoyed a view of the Mississippi River and the Cape Girardeau riverfront while the paddlewheeler was docked Nov. 2, 2006.
Fred Lynch

KIMMSWICK, Mo. -- Delta Queen steamboat supporters have assured the head of the Coast Guard any safety concerns about the vessel will be addressed before taking to the water.

Before the boat can carry passengers, it must be exempt from the federal Safety of Life at Sea Act, which prohibits overnight excursions on wooden vessels, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Coast Guard Adm. Paul Zukunft cited safety concerns such as the boat's more than 90-year-old boilers being exposed to bare wood.

He also said it's a concern there's only one exit off the boat and little done to get the boat up to date.

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of two lawmakers who introduced a bill last month to restore the exemption, said Zukunft's concerns are addressed in the bill.

McCaskill's office cited the bill's provisions that boilers and generators must be upgraded within noncombustible enclosures equipped with fire-suppression systems.

The Delta Queen was bought in February 2015 with the goal of restoring the vessel, but chief operating officer Leah Ann Ingram said no major repairs can be made without the Coast Guard's approval.

Ingram said the cost to upgrade the steamboat is about $10 million. The boat could be on the water in spring 2018 if an exemption passes in the spring this year.

The Delta Queen steamboat originally was used as an overnight passenger vessel in 1927. Corporate offices of the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. opened last fall in Kimmswick, but the boat is docked in Houma, Louisiana.

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