Venice: Large cruise ships banned from the historic core

The cruise can still be entertained, but still: cruise ships, accused of endangering the historic core of Venice, a UNESCO heritage site, will be banned from 1 August.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi hailed the “important step in preserving the Venetian lagoon,” subjected for decades to a continuous ballet of sea monsters pouring millions of visitors into the Doge’s City.

Defenders of the environment and cultural heritage accuse the large waves generated by these ships, several hundred meters long and several floors high, of corroding the foundations of the Serenissima and threatening the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon. The debate was revived last month with the return of the cruise after a months-long pandemic that provided the Venetians with peace and clean air while denying them significant income.

Vessels exceeding 25,000 gross tonnage, over 180 meters in length, 35 meters in draft or whose emissions contain more than 0.1% sulfur will no longer be allowed to enter the San Marco Basin, the San Marco Canal and the Giudecca Canal.

They will have to moor at the industrial port of Marghera, where improvements will be made, while smaller cruisers (about 200 passengers) will be able to continue to dock in the heart of the city, a government statement said.

Italy, stressed Culture and Heritage Minister Dario Franceschini, thus wanted to “avoid the concrete risk of the city being included in the list of dangerous heritage”.

– Heritage in danger –

Time was running out as UNESCO advisory bodies proposed the inscription in late June, and the World Heritage Committee is due to make a decision at its meeting in China from 16 to 31 July.

Entry on the endangered heritage list may provide the committee with rapid assistance to the site in question under the World Heritage Fund.

But it also serves to “alarm the international community in the hope that it will mobilize to save the places in question,” and it can also be understood as “dishonorable,” UNESCO writes in its place.

Above all, if nothing is done in the long run, the site can be removed from the World Heritage List, to which Venice has been inscribed since 1987.

– Damaged companies –

The debate over the presence of sea giants is not limited to Venice and has always had an international dimension, due to the notoriety of this tourist destination, one of the most popular in the world.

In early June, a host of international artists, from Mick Jagger to Wes Anderson to Francis Ford Coppola and Tilda Swinton, sent an open letter to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Mario Draghi and the mayor of Venice asking for a “permanent stop” for cruise ship traffic.

The decree adopted by the Council of Ministers on Tuesday “is a good compromise”, reacted the president of the association of tourist companies Veneta, Confturismo Veneto. “Margher’s solution will keep Venice’s port call, saving jobs and activities on the one hand and freeing up the Giudecca canal on the other.”

Because cruises bring significant revenue to merchants and the port of Venice: 400 million euros a year and 5,000 jobs. But no less and no more than 90,000 people depend directly or indirectly on the city’s port infrastructure.

The government has pledged to make up for the shortfall in the sector, especially the terminal manager, its subcontractors, logistics companies, etc. The port of Marghera will also have to be developed to accommodate ships and 150m euros will be released for that purpose.

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