The Delta Queen steamboat docked in Louisville for what could be the last time Friday. The more than 80 year old vessel is scheduled to be docked permanently in November.
The Delta Queen has been operating on a federal exemption that allows the mostly wooden boat to carry overnight passengers. A House Committee has stalled action on renewing the exemption, saying the boat is unsafe.
Retired riverboat captain Alan Bates has piloted the Queen. He says it’s safe, and the exemption was denied because of pressure from unions.
“Although the boat has a wooden cabin, it also has fire suppression in every space,” he says. “It has smoke detectors in every room. All of the paints and finishes are flameproof, and the whole thing is an excuse, really.”
Congressman James Oberstar, who has blocked the exemption, denies the effect of union influence.
The Delta Queen is headed towards New Orleans, where it will likely dock permanently. The boat is currently for sale. Barring congressional action, it’s unlikely the Queen will take part in the great steamboat race next year.