Italian Government Announces Ban on Large Cruise Ships in Venice Historic Center

| Thu, 07/15/2021 - 09:03
Cruise ship passing by St Mark's Square in Venice

The never-ending saga of Venice’s cruise ship has just added another chapter - could it be the last one? 

The Italian government has just announced that cruise ships will be banned from sailing through the city center of Venice starting August 1, 2021. Wait, you may ask, hadn’t that already been announced earlier this year? Yes, but then in early June a giant cruise ship sailed through the Saint Mark’s basin and Giudecca Canal, right through the heart of Venice, and it appeared as if nothing had changed.

A few days later, Unesco said it would consider putting Venice on its endangered list at its plenary session to be held July 16 to 31, explaining that the survival of the city was at risk if it didn’t permanently ban cruise ships from entering the lagoon. 

Large cruise ships passing near St. Mark’s Square and through the Giudecca Canal pose environmental concerns (they damage the lagoon’s fragile ecosystem and foundations, they heavily pollute the air and the sea, they are noisy) as well as safety concerns (the risk for accidents involving people and historic buildings. Plus they’re accused of fueling that hit-and-run tourism that exacerbates the issues associated with an excessive number of tourists.  

On July 13 the Italian government issued a decree stating that large ships will no longer be allowed to pass in front of San Marco and through the Giudecca canal. This applies to:

  • Ships weighing more than 25,000 tonnes; 
  • Ships longer than 180 meters; 
  • Ships more than 35 meters high; 
  • Ships that emit more than 0.1% of sulfur.

Ships that do not have the aforementioned characteristics, and which are therefore considered sustainable, will be able to continue to dock in the city center.

Large cruise ships instead will be able to temporarily dock in Marghera, the government said, although the berths are not ready yet; it is likely that cruise ships planning to arrive in Venice this season will be rerouted to other ports in northern Italy such as Trieste and Ravenna. 

Italy's Culture Minister Dario Franceschini declared St. Mark's Basin and the Giudecca Canal 'national monuments.'

The Marghera solution is only temporary; in April, the Italian government had issued an ‘urgent’ decree which instructed the Port Authority of the Northern Adriatic Sea to issue a ‘call for ideas’ (a public consultation) with the purpose to collect a number of proposals and projects to build docking ports outside the ‘protected waters of Venice lagoon’. The timeline for this is quite long: ideas should be submitted by December 31, 2021, and a winner will be selected by June 30, 2023.

According to data from the Cruise Lines International Association Italy (CLIA), the cruise ship industry pre-pandemic contributed 3% to the gross domestic product of La Serenissima, and gave work to 4,000 people. The Italian government said it would provide 157 million euros for provisional docking ports in Marghera and that it would indemnify those that will be damaged by the ban.