Protests as cruise ships return to Venice

Hundreds protest in Venice as cruise ships return to city

By Region News North-east Italy Travel & Tourism

Campaigners against cruise ships in Venice protested against the huge vessels docking in the city’s port. Previously, prime minister Mario Draghi’s government declared cruise ships banned from the historic centre.

The MSC Orchestra sailed into Venice on Thursday, collecting 650 passengers. It then set off for Bari in the south of Italy.

Supposed ban on cruise ships in centre of Venice

In March, the government announced cruise ships would be banned from docking in the historic centre. Instead, they would divert to the industrial port of Marghera; until such time as authorities constructed a cruise terminal outside the lagoon.

The decree was approved by the lower house of parliament last month. Indeed, Dario Franceschini, the culture minister, reiterated that ships “as tall as apartment buildings” had been stopped from arriving in the centre of Venice “for good”.

Imagine the surprise, therefore, when on Thursday the 92,000 tonne MSC Orchestra sailed past people’s windows.

“The Italian government has been great at deceiving not only citizens of Venice, but newspapers and public opinion around the world,” said Tommaso Cacciari, leader of the activist group No Grandi Navi (No Big Ships).

“The government knew it was impossible, as the canal that the ships must pass through to reach Marghera is too narrow and not deep enough,” Cacciari continued. “So, you would need to dredge the canal in order for that to happen, which would be even more devastating for the equilibrium of the lagoon.”

He added: “The aim of this protest is to make the government realise and explain – the whole world reported on this story – and yet here the big ships are again. It’s shameful.”

Counterprotest for those who depend on the cruise industry

Si Grandi Navi held a counter-protest. This movement supports the thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the cruise industry. The majority of those workers have been out of work since the pandemic struck.

Cruise ships are a touchy subject in Venice. Those against them argue they damage the lagoon and the foundations of buildings. However, the travel and cruise industries do contribute to the local economy. Approximately, 5,000 people usually work at Venice’s cruise terminal.

“The reason why we’re sending ships to Venice this year, which is another year plagued by Covid-19, is because we’ve been asked many times by the local community to please come back,” said Francesco Galietti, the director of the Italy unit for the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

“For years, the cruise industry has been asking the authorities for a stable solution for the access of ships to Venice,” added Galietti. “There was a moment when we thought we nailed one, but then the government collapsed. To find a solution you need a completely perfect alignment between Rome and Venice, which is not so simple.”

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