Barcelona is limiting cruise ship numbers at its central port to reduce overtourism and lower exhaust gases in the city.
3 out of 10 docks closed
Docking capacity for cruise ships will be cut by 30% under the new measures, which will see selected terminals in the city closed off completely. Access to the northern docks at Muelle Barcelona Norte and the World Trade Centre will be restricted, meaning ships will have to use the city’s southern port. Shuttle buses from the open piers will take visitors to and from the centre, with a journey time of half an hour.
Applicable from 22 October 2023, the change has been in the offing for some time, following the launch of a Cruise Sustainability Council in 2018 and a 2019 promise by Barcelona’s mayor at the time, Ada Colau, to do something about the “feeling of collapse” created when thousands of people arrive in the city at once.
🚢 We have closed the North cruise terminal of the @WTCBarcelona!— Port of Barcelona (@PortofBarcelona) October 3, 2023
👋 Yesterday we said goodbye to the last cruise to operate at this wharf, the #WorldNavigator.
🥳 The more than 13,600 m² will be opened to the public once the @americascup.
The city has already introduced rules governing the behaviour and flow of large groups of tourists in its centre, joining other cities and resorts around the world grappling with tourist numbers and the move towards more sustainable offers.
The cost of low-cost tourism
Cruise ships were banned from many ports around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic due to the fear of outbreaks among passengers and subsequent spread into settings on land. But as some destinations have gradually re-opened, debates about the benefits and costs of welcoming the liners and their passengers continue to rage.
Barcelona must be able to decide which ports it needs. We are a city with a port, not a port with a city.Janet Sanz, Barcelona Deputy Mayor and Councillor for Ecology, Urbanism and Mobility
“If there’s anything we learned from the pandemic, it’s that this idea of low-cost tourism, or tourism without limits, ends up being very costly for the city”, Barcelona’s deputy mayor and councillor responsible for ecology, urbanism and mobility Janet Sanz has said previously.
Ahead of the introduction of the new rules, she observed on X, “Barcelona must be able to decide which ports it needs. We are a city with a port, not a port with a city. In 2018 we agreed to close 2 terminals in the center to have them all in the attached dock and move them away from the city. In 2023 we need fewer terminals, cruise ships and excuses.”
The Catalonian capital is not the first destination to tackle the issue of overtourism by focusing on the issue of ships. Dubrovnik in Croatia limited its welcome to just two docking cruise ships in 2019, while Venice banned cruise ships over 25,000 tonnes from its lagoon in 2021 in a bid to protect its iconic Piazza San Marco and surroundings.
Meanwhile, The Independent has reported activists dressed as wildlife protesting the arrival of a World Traveller liner in Brittany in by yelling “shame on you”, “go home” and “you’re not welcome” at passengers in the port of Douarnenez on Sunday.