Venice to Ban Large Cruise Ships From City Center

MSC Divina in Venice

PHOTO: Large cruise ships will be banned from docking in Venice by 2021. (photo via Flickr/Martin Cooper)Venice has taken action against cruise ships in a move that isn’t likely to sit well with future passengers.

According to The Independent, an Italian government committee has ruled to ban cruise ships over 60,000 tons from docking in the city centre by the year 2021.

Instead, the large ships will bypass the Grand Canal and St. Mark’s Square for the mainland at Marghera, a destination that pales in comparison to the photogenic Venice.

The controversial decision comes in the wake of concerns expressed by both locals and activists that the vessels are harming the city’s historical infrastructure as well as the environment.

Venice hosts approximately 30 million tourists annually, according to CNN. While the large cruise ships that enter the city represent a key driver of its tourism-based economy, Venice’s 50,000 or so residents have warned that the city can’t withstand all the attention.

“We want it to be clear to UNESCO and the whole world that we have a solution,” said Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro via The Guardian. “This takes into account all the jobs created by the cruise industry, which we absolutely couldn’t afford to lose, and we can start to work seriously on planning cruises.”

Ships under the specified mass will continue to travel along the iconic Zattere waterfront and into Venice’s city centre.

While 99 percent of Venetians who voted in an unofficial referendum this past June supported the ban, not everyone is optimistic about the committee’s ruling.

Activist Tommasso Cacciari of the No Grandi Navi (No Big Ships) protest group told The Guardian that the “declaration means nothing.”

“They haven’t found a solution, there is no plan—basically, nothing will change. They say the largest ships will go to Marghera—but where will they put them?” he asked. “They say all of this will be done within four years, but even projects in Dubai do not get completed in that space of time.”

Cacciari also argued that the ban won’t quell environment concerns.

This week’s decision comes four years after authorities banned ships over 105,000 tons from sailing through the city. That ban was subsequently overturned in 2015.

Venice Cruise Traffic Plateaus For Now

Ongoing vessel tonnage restrictions in Venice have capped cruise traffic for now, with a limit of 96,000 tons. In 2017 the classic Italian port is looking at a forecast of 473 calls and just over 1.4 million passengers, which is down from 2016. Next year looks set to be similar to 2017, according to a port spokesperson.

Meanwhile, government officials are still working to lock down an alternative route for larger ships to reach the port facilities.

New callers in 2017 include the AIDAblue, the Artemis, Norwegian Star, Silver Muse, Seabourn Encore, Arethusa, and both the Viking Sky and Sun.

The board of directors for VTP (the port authority) agreed earlier this year not to adjust berth fees in order to help foster growth.

Future growth will need to depend on the identification and availability of a new alternative route for ships to reach port facilities – thus allowing large ships to use Venice again. The port spokesperson also told Cruise Industry News that they want to increase their week-day call portfolio. VTP offers 10 terminal choices.

Venice to reroute biggest ships but will maintain terminal

By Tom Stieghorst

Changes afloat for Venice cruisesTo reduce the impact of big cruise ships in Venice, Italian ministers have decided to route the largest ships away from the center city, while still allowing them to dock there.

Cruise traffic would enter the Venetian lagoon on the southwest end, transiting the Malamocco channel, which is already used by cargo ships.

As a first step, an environmental study has been commissioned to evaluate the dredging of a cut-off canal leading from the cargo channel to the existing Venice cruise ship terminal.

Activists say that the dredging will harm the Venice lagoon by deepening it and creating more wave action, while at the same time disrupting sediments and water life in the area.

But a committee of Italian ministers said the plan mitigates the effects of increasingly large ships on Venice while preserving their positive contribution to the economy.

“It seems to me to be a balanced solution,” Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi said in announcing the decision.

Some parties had pushed for a more radical option, such as relocating the cruise terminal to the industrial port at Marghera, a plan favored by Venetian Mayor Giorgio Orsoni.

Venice hosted more than 1.8 million cruise passengers last year, making it the third-busiest cruise port in Europe, after Barcelona and Civitavecchia, near Rome.

An increasingly vocal group of activists has protested that modern cruise ships have grown out of scale with Venice and are causing damage to the city’s foundations, an assertion disputed by the cruise industry.

As part of the new plan, the committee of Italian ministers reinstated a ban on cruise ships of more than 96,000 gross tons from using the current route through the Lido and down the Giudecca Canal.

That route takes cruise ship passengers through the heart of Venice and past Piazza San Marco, its biggest attraction.

Cruise lines, through CLIA Europe, emphasized the importance of Venice and the Venice Passenger Terminal to the entire cruise industry.

“While we believe that the passage of cruises through the Giudecca Canal is safe, we agree that a sustainable solution for Venice requires a new alternative route for ships, and so we are pleased that the Italian government is working very hard to find a sustainable solution,” a CLIA statement said.

A study last year found that the cruise industry in Venice created an annual economic impact of 345 million euros (about $462 million).

Individual cruise lines have been planning for Venice’s mandated reduction in ship size. Celebrity Cruises, for example, next year will sail a 91,000-gross-ton, Millennium-class ship on Eastern Mediterranean itineraries from Venice, while moving its 122,000-gross-ton, Solstice-class ship to Baltic itineraries.

The Italian government had originally banned cruise ships of more than 96,000 gross tons from the current route effective Jan. 1, but that ban has been stayed by a regional Italian court, pending a decision on an alternative route into the city.

The decision to move forward on the environmental study of the back channel addresses the court’s objection.

The plan calls for deepening the Contorta Sant’ Angelo, a 4-kilometer channel between Marghera and Venice that was cut in the 1960s for fuel barges, from a depth of 1.5 meters to 9 meters.

Authorities estimate the dredging project will take about two years and cost about 115 million euros (about $154 million).