As most of our members will have heard, the Maritime Act of 1970 survived the Senate - House of Representatives Conference Committee and has now received the approval of Congress. Nevertheless, the Committee, after considerable deliberation, deleted from the Act a Senate amendment which would have permanently exempted DELTA QUEEN from the restrictions imposed by the 1966 Safety-at-Sea legislation.
Many of the elected representatives of the people of the United States of America showed that they did care about the heritage of the nightboats, and support for the Save-the-QUEEN campaign can be judged from the fact that 25 bills to save the ship were introduced by 26 Congressmen and 4 Senators. One Congressman even went so far as to enlist the support of 195 other Congressmen in co-sponsoring a letter in support of the Senate amendment, Nevertheless, the letter fell on deaf ears since it was addressed to House Merchant Marine Chairman Edward Garmatz, who has stood solidly against the DELTA QUEEN throughout the campaign. Indeed, Mr. Garmatz was so strongly against allowing the steamer to operate that he refused to allow any of the Bills to actually come forward for Congressional action. Needless to say, the public-spirited Mr. Garmatz was wholeheartedly supported by the United States Coast Guard! On October 7, the President of Greene Line Steamers, Inc., Mr. William Muster, issued a statement concerning the future of the DELTA QUEEN. In place of the legislation to save DELTA QUEEN, Congress is now working on a plan to financially assist the Greene Line in building a new steamer. Presumably, the plan is to place the new ship in the same category as Lake or Ocean vessels which are eligible for government assistance on construction costs.
In any event, Muster has stated that if Congress can pass the necessary legislation during the current session, the Greene Line will preserve the continuity of their services by operating the DELTA QUEEN until the new vessel is ready. Undoubtedly the operation of the QUEEN with less than 50 passengers per trip as required by the current safety rules would result in a substantial loss to her owners, but the Greene Line has promised to abide by this course of action. Muster ruled out any possibility that the vessel would be preserved by conversion to a day excursion ship.
We, therefore, have no way of knowing yet whether the QUEEN will be operating next year on a reduced basis, or whether her great California paddlewheel has turned for the last time. We shall eagerly await word on the decision, and we hope that the U. S. legislators will realize how important their actions on this question will be.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.