On Tuesday, Italy banned cruise liners from Venice lagoon to defend its ecosystem and heritage. This was in response to UNESCO’s concerns and the demands of residents and culture bodies.
The government decided to act after the United Nations culture organisation UNESCO threatened to put Italy on a blacklist for not banning liners from the World Heritage site, cabinet sources said.
Ban comes into effect 1st August
The ban takes effect from 1st August. Ships weighing more than 25,000 tonnes will not be allowed to enter the shallow Giudecca Canal that leads past Piazza San Marco.
“I am proud of a commitment that had been honoured,” Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said in a tweet announcing the cabinet’s approval of the decree.
The legislation, which will affect the business of cruise companies, provides compensation for firms and workers involved, a culture ministry statement said.
Been urging the government for years
Venice residents and the international community have urged successive governments for years to ban large ships passing through the lagoon. The presence of these large ships pollutes and threatens the stability of the city’s buildings and fragile ecosystem.
Those concerns do not site in concert with the interests of port authorities and tourist operators. The latter say the city needs the business offered by the cruise industry.
In April, the government approved a decree to build a terminal outside the lagoon. It would be for passenger vessels over 40,000 tons and container ships can berth. They published the call for bids to build the terminal on June 29.
In the meantime, large boats were told to dock at the industrial port of Marghera. However, this intermediate solution is not yet ready because Marghera lacks a suitable docking point for liners.
Weight threshold excludes cruise liners
The 25,000-ton threshold means only small passenger ferries and goods vessels can use the Giudecca. It will exclude all cruise liners which typically weigh at least four times as much. Some even reach more than 200,000 tons.
Francesco Galietti, Italian director of the international cruise industry trade association CLIA, said the group welcomed an alternative route for cruise ships. He called the latest government move “a major step forward”.
Nowhere to dock
Rome has passed legislation numerous times in the past to limit liners’ access to Venice. However, an alternative docking point is not yet ready.
The government’s decree appoints a special commissioner to fast-track the docking station at Marghera.
Alessandro Santi, who heads Federagenti, a national shipping lobby, said the government was taking no account of the industry with an approach that was “regrettable and creates resentment”.
He accused Rome of listening to UNESCO and international culture lobbyists while ignoring local “citizens and business people”.
“Limiting the passage of ships won’t solve the difficulties of Venice as a city,” he said.