William Hume is a retired infrastructure land surveyor residing in Burnsville. He writes nationally concerning transportation issues.
Hastings has potential to be a successful tourist destination for luxury river cruises in the near future. Docking below our Hastings river walk and porting rich passengers each to spend thousands of their tourist dollars. Realizing this plan faces challenges offered by regional politics, infrastructure and the Mississippi River itself.
The subject of current controversy is Viking River Cruises. Viking is the super luxury river boat cruise line traversing waterways in Europe. Currently, Viking is building in a Europe shipyard a fleet of super high-tech flat bottom boats for use exclusively in Europe. Speculation has it Viking may include the Minnesota portion of the Mississippi River for high-dollar cruisin'. Originally planned for operations in 2018, Viking has backed off on the plan. Viking just needs a bit of coaching from economic development and tourist authorities. Just a few innovative accomplishments to be had. Strategic thought in river port planning that has not been presented as of yet. Then Viking can dock right here in Hastings, a historic and fascinating river city. Hastings is geographically and of best interest for river travelers to Minnesota.
I can project right here, today. No waterway council or commission has to my knowledge figured out Viking could use American boat building shipyards to get around the Federal Jones Act. So important and so necessary to progress.
River town Hastings would be a fantastic stop. Viking plans port origin and harbor facilities in New Orleans, the ultimate river city. In my river viewpoint Hastings would be the best north terminus, turn around, and final northerly navigation destination. There are challenges to overcome.
Here's the big speed bump in the river, so to speak: It's called the Federal Jones Act. This is a maritime law and statute that prohibits foreign built and crewed boats from operating on American rivers and coastal fishing waters. Unless Viking plans rollin' on the river with vessels built in the US and with domestic crew hired to run them, Viking will not be exploring the mighty Mississippi.
Various port authorities are trying to find a solution. So far these civic groups appear to be in the dark. May I present a direction. Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau along with Hastings Port Authority be informed that the greatest shipbuilders are right here in United States.
General Dynamics Electric Boat Division would be able to design, build and launch ecologically friendly, electric-powered cruise ships. In combination with solar, battery and electric kinetic energy recovery force generation from the river's natural currents. Newport News Shipyard, builder for the Navy of immense new Ford Class carriers, would use high tech materials to venture in commercial river vessel architecture. Nichols Bros. boat shipyard in Washington state builds wonderful cruise ships. These shipbuilders all could build for Viking — then satisfying the Jones Act.
With this excellent advent of river enterprise Viking could hire young workers from Hastings looking to join an elite corporate environment and travel the world. Possibly these young citizens of Hastings could join with completed nautical architecture degrees the great boat builders of the world mentioned here. The river adventure Mark Twain wrote about is right around the bend.
My next column will detail a new river cruise port station for Hastings. Who could design it and build it. How it could be financed. When it will happen and why. Until then I'm going to do some summer river fishing in Hastings for those big cats.