The Italian government has announced a temporary measure that will see all large cruise ships diverted from Venice to Marghera, a mainland industrial port across Venice, effectively banning them from the city centre.
1. A temporary solution
The decision was made on March 25th in order to “protect a historical-cultural heritage not only of Italy but of the whole world,” according to a statement by the Minister of Ecological Transition Roberto Cingolani, Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini, Minister of Tourism Massimo Garavaglia and Minister of Sustainable Infrastructures and Mobility Enrico Giovannini. The statement highlights that the it is a temporary solution, whilst a better solution is being decided, and a competition of ideas to solve the problem in a “structural and definitive way” has been launched.
Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini also tweeted the news, saying the decision would help meet a request by the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO. “A correct decision, awaited for years: the [Italian] Council of Ministers approves a decree-law that establishes that the final landing places of the big ships in #Venice will have to be planned and realised outside the lagoon, as requested by UNESCO,” he tweeted.
Una decisione giusta e attesa da anni: il Consiglio dei ministri approva un decreto legge che stabilisce che l’approdo definitivo delle Grandi Navi a #Venezia dovrà essere progettato e realizzato fuori dalla laguna, come chiesto dall’@UNESCO. pic.twitter.com/Gdv5PYZLKW— Dario Franceschini (@dariofrance) March 31, 2021
2. Pressure for the ban
There has been mounting pressure to ban cruise ships from the city over the years, with arguments including both environmental and socio-cultural concerns. Some are worried the waves produced by the large ships are eroding the foundations of the historic city, which regularly floods leaving iconic sites such as Saint Mark’s Square underwater. Others complain that the massive ships are an eyesore and that because accommodation and dining are available onboard they are undermining the city’s tourist economy as tourists do not spend sufficiently off the boat.
There have been many protests over the issue, and Venetians have petitioned against cruise ships entering the busy Giudecca Canal in the lagoon city for years. These arguments gained extra force after a cruise vessel crashed into a smaller tourist boat while trying to dock. The accident left several tourists injured and caused property damage, whilst casuign the city’s mayor to urge authorities to accelerate the process of diverting cruise ships to the alternate Vittorio Emanuele III Canal.
Here the video from people angle escaping from cruise ship losing control approaching the pier in Venice.— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) June 2, 2019
The noise of siren and of clash is totally frightening, looking like a scene from a disaster movie #grandinavi pic.twitter.com/TGIIR2oFut
3. Previous bans
The Italian government already banned ships weighing more than 96,000 metric tons from the Giudecca Canal back in 2013, partly in response to the deadly 2012 Costa Concordia disaster. The accident, which saw the 115,000-ton cruise ship hit a rock formation off the island of Giglio, Tuscany, after its captain sailed too close to the shore, led to the law change but this was later overturned by a regional court which ruled that safety or environmental risks had not been proven.
In 2017 the Italian government also released an official directive to keep the largest cruise ships away from the Piazza San Marco and the entrance to the Grand Canal, with ships over 55,000 tonnes to be diverted to a specific route through the Vittorio Emmanuele III Canal, to a passenger terminal (yet to be built) in an industrial area of the mainland. However this plan was never properly put into effect.