Smaller cruise ships will still be able to sail close to Venice’s main sights
It has been common knowledge for many years that the Venetian authorities were considering banning giant cruise ships from the Giudecca Canal as they sail close to the heart of the city on their way to and from the international cruise terminal. Anyone who has ever been in Venice when one of these ships is sailing along the canal not far from St. Mark’s Square will understand the dilemma which Venice has faced. On the one hand, the cruise ships bring thousands of tourists to the city and the cruise industry means valuable jobs for the city’s inhabitants.
On the other hand, campaigners have argued for a number of years that the giant cruise ships, which carry up to 5.000 passengers and crew, create waves which erode the banks and damage buildings as they sail along the Giudecca Canal. There is also something faintly ridiculous about watching a huge, modern vessel dwarfing Venice’s beautiful spires, cupolas and palaces as it sails past.
The new plan announced by the Italian government will see the ships diverted well away from the UNESCO World Heritage city to dock at a terminal in the industrial port of Marghera on the mainland. Passengers will then either be ferried to Venice in smaller boats or in coaches which will travel along the causeway from the mainland to Piazzale Roma on Venice Island. The larger cruise ships will have to enter the Venetian lagoon from the Adriatic through an inlet further south than the one they currently use. Smaller cruise vessels – those of 55,000 tonnes or less – will be allowed to continue to use the present route.
The Italian government had been faced with a very difficult problem, in trying to protect Venice’s delicate cultural heritage and at the same time not penalising the tourism industry which is so important for the city. The new measures will not come into effect for three or four years, which worries some interested parties, who would have liked to see a rather speedier response to the problem.
In an informal referendum held by a campaign group in June, nearly 99 per cent of the 18,000 Venetians who took part voted in favour of banning giant cruise ships from the city’s lagoon altogether, saying they disgorge too many tourists and damage the environment.
The relationship between the city of Venice and its inhabitants, the tourists who flock to the city every year, and the cruise industry is a very delicate one, and it will no doubt continue to be so for many years to come.