Venice finally bans cruise ships from its lagoon

(CNN) – For those traveling on a Mediterranean cruise, it is one of the most memorable attractions: the city of Venice that does not peel under the boat, the eternal buildings and the bell towers that are shaded by the ship, giving the viewers a stunning panoramic view.

But for many on the coast, cruise ships in Venice have come to symbolize the excesses of modern tourism – the type that can free thousands of visitors to a city that is not equipped to meet them on a “hit and run” visit to see sightseeing, but you do not spend money on the local economy.

For years, lagoon expulsion campaigns from the lagoon have been gaining traction, with locals claiming that huge shipbuildings are eroding the seabed, effectively turning the lagoon into a tributary of the Adriatic Sea.

And now, finally, the Italian government has agreed with them, passing a decree banning cruise ships and other large ships from the lagoon.

In a statement to Reuters, the government said it wanted to “reconcile the need to protect the artistic, cultural and environmental heritage of Venice and its lagoon with those related to cruising and merchandise”.Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini wrote on Twitter that it was “the right decision and has been waiting for years”. He added that UNESCO had requested it in the past.

“Anyone who has visited Venice in recent years has been shocked to see these ships, hundreds of meters high in apartment buildings, passing through such fragile places,” he said after the vote.

A new port on the Adriatic Sea

The MSC Magnifica Cruise Liner passes near St. Mark’s Square in the Venice Basin on January 23, 2011.

ANDREA PATTARO / AFP via Getty Images

The government will now hold public consultations on the possibility of building terminals outside the lagoon.

This means that previous ship launches to Marghera and Fusina – both on the mainland but in the lagoon of Venice – will not be possible.

Authorities had previously agreed to redirect large ships away from the St. Mark’s Basin and the Giudecca Canal – where the ships are just a few meters from the city center – but to anchor them at Marghera.

That was not enough for the militants, however, who say that the very presence of large ships in the lagoon destroys the environment.

The succession of major floods in recent years is due in part to global warming, but in part, some say, to the erosion of the lagoon.

Tensions between these pro and anti-cruise ships have been rising in recent weeks.

More than 4,000 locals work in the port and are among the Venetians who lost their lives during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But others, backed by UNESCO, say the ecological damage caused by cruise ships – and the hyper-tourism they contribute to – should carry more weight.

Last month alone, No Grandi Navi pressure team was fined € 20,000 ($ 23,500) for blocking the exit of three cruise ships from the port in 2017. A crowdfunder to pay their fines included donations from actress Emma Thompson. which has a house in Venice. The group was not available for comment today.

Cinzia Zincone, Special Commissioner for the Autorità di Sistema Portuale del Mare Adriatico Settentrionale, which manages the port of Venice, said in a statement to CNN that it would guarantee “cooperation” in the search for new solutions, but warned that any proposals “should be respect safety criteria, environmental compatibility and safeguard the substance of Venice ‘s homeport on the cruise ship. “

The port had already opened last month for bids to design a new cruise terminal in Marghera, after a government committee decided in December that large ships should be docked there, but smaller ones could continue to use the current one. port of the city.

“A chapter of sustainability”

The Venetians have become accustomed to the city being overshadowed by ships.

The Venetians have become accustomed to the city being overshadowed by ships.

Miguel Medina / AFP / Getty Images

Most Venetians were optimistic about the news. Valeria Duflot, founder of the social enterprise Venezia Autentica, called it “positive news”, but added that “this should not be a green wash but a real step in the right direction”.

He called on the city and port authorities to ban new canals dug in the lagoon and to set up “cold ironing infrastructure” to allow ships to be connected to electricity when docked, instead of keeping their engines running.

He also asked cruise companies to contribute financially to the new port and to introduce a “low-impact transport system” for offers that carry passengers to the lagoon.

“Venice claims it wants to become a capital of sustainability,” he added.

“Regulating the cruise industry is a crucial step in doing so. As one of the main ports in the Mediterranean, Venice has the power to move the needle.

“We ask the city to be courageous and to set an example.”

This is not the first time the authorities have tried to ban cruise ships.

The move of the Italian government in 2019 to redirect the big ships failed when the government fell a little later.

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