Environmentalists, cultural organizations, and residents of Venice have been pleading for years to stop cruise ships from sailing into the Italian city’s lagoon. They got their wish this week.
Cruise ships will be banned from sailing through the city center as of August 1, the government announced Tuesday night. The ban covers the lagoon near St. Mark’s Square, one of the city’s most famous landmarks, St. Mark’s Canal, and the Giudecca Canal, the main route to Venice’s port.
“It is a decision awaited by UNESCO, by all the people who have been to Venice at least once in their lives, by Italian and foreign travelers who were shocked to see these ships passing through the most fragile and beautiful places in the world,” said Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini, NBC News reported.
The ban applies to ships weighing more than 25,000 tons or longer than 590 feet. A typical cruise ship weighs four to eight times the limit.
Ships will now be rerouted to dock on the mainland at the industrial port of Marghera, about a 10-minute boat ride from the city center. That port, however, does not have adequate berths to handle cruise ships. Constructing them will take time, meaning cruise season for Venice is most likely done for 2021.
Despite that wrinkle, the cruise industry supports the move.
“We’ve been asking for 10 years to have somewhere else to go, and finally we are on track to get it, so we’re very upbeat,” Francesco Galietti, director of Cruise Lines International Association Italy, told CNN. “It’s the first time in 10 years that we’re seeing tangible progress.”
He said cruise ship companies will have to scramble to deal with the almost immediate change, but it will be beneficial in the long run.
“Each company will have to review its plans,” he said. “Some will cancel altogether, others will maybe divert what was assigned to Venice to Trieste, Monfalcone or Ravenna.”
According to the Venice Port Authority, about 4,000 jobs in the city rely on the cruise ship industry. The head of moorers at the port said the decision to ban the ships so quickly has left people worried about their livelihoods.
“They have been talking about an alternative route for cruise liners for the past 10 years, and we were never against it,” Marco Gorin said. “But we didn’t expect the government to ban cruises without finding a solution first.”
The government promised compensation to those impacted by the decision, but it released no timeline, payment plan, or other details.
Environmentalists hailed the decision as a huge step forward. Jane Da Mosto, executive director of the We Are Here Venice, told NBC News she was thrilled to see an end to the “nightmare of cruise ships in the city.”
But that wasn’t the reaction of others, including Alessandro Santi, who heads the shipping lobby Federagenti. He worries about the impact on local businesses.“Limiting the passage of ships won’t solve the difficulties of Venice as a city,” he told Reuters.