Two senators from Ohio introduced a bill that would let the historic riverboat Delta Queen return to her overnight passenger service. The bill is companion to legislation introduced in the United States House in March by another lawmarker from Ohio, Rep. Steve Chabot.
U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) sponsored the bill with co-sponsors from other regional states, including Tom Cotton and John Boozman from Arkansas, Claire McCaskill (Missouri), David Vitter (Louisiana).
According to Rob Portman, the Delta Queen was a true Ohio treasure and important part of the history of Queen City. He shared his memories being on the boat as a boy and introduced that measure to keep Delta Queen afloat for Cincinnatians. Portman added they were working to make sure the ship could get back in business as it represented a big part of history, and would help promote economic opportunity and recreational activities along the Ohio River.
The Safety at Sea law (1966) prohibits wooden vessels of a certain size from carrying travelers on overnight trips. The new legislation would require up-to-date safety requirements and grant 15-years exemption to the rule, which was standard practice till 2008.
The Delta Queen was built in 1927 and is designated a National Historic Landmark. Currently, the vessel is undergoing refits in Houma, Louisiana, by a group led by the president and CEO of the recently brought back to activity Delta Queen Steamboat Co., Cornel J. Martin. His partners, Leah and Randy Ingram, operated Delta Queen as a moored hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
They estimated the ship needed $5 million in repairs before she could return to overnight sailing, which they hoped would happen by summer 2016.