NavCal Marine Services Company Gives Up Trying to Fight City Regulations

Clubs and Organizations

October 23, 2015


NavCal River Rides operates a highly regulated passenger vessel that has to be inspected annually by the United States Coast Guard and its captain must have a current Coast Guard Masters License requiring random drug testing. NavCal is giving up trying to fight City regulations after being in business for eight years. We were told we would be arrested if we continued to offer Water Taxi service for home football games (after 7 years) unless we obtained a City Taxi License. The taxi license requirements conflict with U S Coast Guard regulations and compliance would cause us to lose our Coast Guard License and then be completely out of business. The taxi license is obviously intended to regulate vehicles on streets only. There is no indication, in those regulations, that they even apply to Federally Regulated, Navigable Waters. During an appearance at the police station, we were absolutely denied a request to discuss possible alternatives and a small company can not afford to hire a lawyer just to be heard. The South Waterfront Development Plan even calls for water taxi service and we were asked to write a water taxi annex for the plan but that is not now possible.

After children get back in school, our sightseeing cruise business falls off. We depended on water taxi service to provide sustaining revenue in the fall. In the past, it was not unusual to transport 150 to 200 passengers with our water taxi service for a single game. Since we have been forced to offer only fixed schedule game day ferry service we only average 20 to 25 passengers per game.

NavCal has always tried to be a good corporate citizen. We served on the Visit Knoxville Marketing Committee, attended the Visit Knoxville FAM Travel Showcases to help promote the City, and we provided free cruises for travel writers and the media. We belonged to the Knoxville and Kingston Chambers of Commerce, the Greater Knoxville Hospitality Association, Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association and worked with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. We have now resigned from all of these since we are selling the boat, probably to a company in Delaware, where the business climate is much friendlier.

We tried to encourage having a Pirate Fest in Knoxville as a way to attract more tourists since such fests are very, very popular. We were immediately stopped by the police department because we wanted guests to be able to safely carry swords. We were told that was not possible in spite of the fact that Civil War and other reenactors had been successfully doing so for over 140 years. We were eventually told we could apply for a permit that others apparently are not required to have. By that time interest had waned and we were forced to give up on the project that could have benefited the City. It certainly appears to us that the City is not very business friendly or accommodating despite our attempts to help bring more tax paying tourists to the area.