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What to do with cruise ships in Venice? There seems to be no easy answer

What to do with cruise ships in Venice? There seems to be no easy answer

The recent banning of the large vessels from entering the historic core leaves many asking: What’s next?

Last week, on 31 March, the Italian government took the decision to finally ban large cruise ships from entering the canals of the historic centre of Venice – a move that had been long requested by UNESCO. This would certainly help decrease the water pollution caused by these vessels, as well as the environmental and structural degradation they potentially bring to the ancient foundations of the lagoon city.

Nevertheless, as a city highly reliant on tourism the regular inflow of visitors guarantees income and employment for many of the local residents, it goes without saying that no one has considered the idea of altogether prohibiting that type of tourism to Venice. The question, though, remains of where cruise ships can be docked in a way that preserves the environment without jeopardizing the economic benefits that are accrued from this activity.

Three different positions from different stakeholders

As far as keeping large ships away from the Giudecca canal and San Marco Square goes, mostly everyone seems to be on board (pun unintended) with that decision. The incident from 2019 when a cruise ship crashed into a harbour in the city resulting in 5 injuries is still fresh on everyone’s minds. This is where agreement mostly ends, however.

The national government has decided that a call of ideas will be launched in order to allow for planners and engineers to propose plans for the construction of a new port terminal located somewhere outside of the lagoon, as has been requested by UNESCO. Meanwhile, it has been decided that the passenger ships will have to use the freight port of Marghera, which is also located in the lagoon but closer to the mainland.

Simone Venturini, deputy mayor of Venice with portfolios in Economic Development and Tourism, stated on his Facebook page that this temporary relocation was just an act of “buying time” which would only hamper the normal operations at the cargo port. He also explained that there had already been proposed plans from 6 years before to create two specialized terminals near Marghera: in Fincantieri (for large ships) and Marittima (for smaller boats) that had fallen on deaf ears.

NGO organization No Grandi Navi (No Large Ships) are also sceptical but they do urge finding a solution that will see getting the cruise ships out of the lagoon altogether. The common unifying scepticism on the local administration and the activist organizations is that since bureaucratic procedures in Italy move at a glacial pace, the proposed cargo port solution will turn from temporary to permanent.

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