The Italian government has suspended the passage of large cruise ships through the Venice lagoon. Effective from 1 August, cruise ships in excess of 25,000 tonnes will be barred from the historic centre until a new terminal at the industrial port of Marghera is built.
The ban announced by Italian prime minister Mario Draghi is the latest chapter in a long-running standoff between anti-cruise ship campaigners and the Venetian tourist industry.
Venice is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but the organisation has threatened to delist the city unless it stops large cruise ships from entering the lagoon, as their presence threatens the fragile infrastructure of the historic centre by generating waves and pollution.
The government had initially banned cruise ships from the lagoon in April, but the reopening of the city in June still saw the arrival of cruise liners into the historic city.
A commissioner has been appointed to fast-track the refurbishment of the Marghera docks, but it’s not clear when facilities will be ready to welcome the big ships.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the body which represents roughly 90 per cent of the cruise industry, has welcomed the decision, saying: “The cruise industry has been supportive of a new approach for many years, so this is a major step forward.
“Also, the government’s decision to appoint a special commissioner to fast-track the process is a welcome development. We now look forward to progress being made towards the provision of alternative docking arrangements in time for the 2022 season.”
Meanwhile, it’s unclear what cruise companies who have Venice on their summer itineraries will do, although it’s likely they will be forced to cancel stops in the city until the new port is ready.