Big ships back in Venice for another tourist season

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Italy’s ministry of infrastructure needs to choose an environmentally friendly alternative to allowing cruise ships into the Lagoon within the next three months

By Ermanno Rivetti. Web only
Published online: 18 April 2014


The cruise ship Preziosa, measuring more than 300m long and weighing in at 139,000 tonnes, sails into Venice Lagoon on 5 April

Venice is still in dire need of a solution to its cruise ship problem. The first mega-ships of the tourist season sailed into St Mark’s Basin last week, following the lifting of a partial ban by a regional court.

The tribunal ruled in March that the Italian government’s restriction on large cruise ships in the Venetian lagoon could only be enforced once an alternative route is established. Seven projects have been presented to the ministry of infrastructure, which is expected to choose the most environmentally friendly solution in the next three months.

There are essentially three sides to this argument. The mayor of Venice would like the ships to dock at Marghera, the city’s unsightly industrial district on the mainland side of the lagoon, rather than opposite Giudecca island, but the powerful Venice Port Authority would prefer to deep-dredge the Contorta Sant Angelo canal, enabling the ships to dock in Venice without sailing through the city—and allowing the agency to collect huge mooring fees. This would, however, accelerate the damage to the lagoon due to loss of sediment. Many environmentalists and Venetians want the ships to be banned from the lagoon entirely.

Four of the proposals involve building a new terminal for cruise ships outside the lagoon’s Lido entrance and bringing the passengers into town on small ferries. This includes the “Venice Cruise 2.0” project, which was presented to the authorities ten years ago. The €128m floating ship terminal would consist of a single pier, 940m long and 34m wide, designed to hold five cruise ships. Tourists would then be transported in groups of at least 800 to the terminal currently in use in the back end of Venice.

However, none of these solutions addresses the core problem of Venice’s “day trip tourist” overload. “The big ship issue is just a symptom and it’s drawing attention away from the real problem, which is that all [the above] solutions are inherently harmful to the city,” says Gherardo Ortalli, a senior member of the Istituto Veneto and part of a working group put together to rethink a long-term strategy for Venice. “The city has become a theme park, and this kind of tourism costs more money than it generates.”

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