Vessels weighing more than 25,000 tonnes barred from lagoon from 1 August
Tugboats escort the MSC Orchestra cruise ship as it leaves Venice in June. Photograph: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images
The Guardian- Angela Giuffrida in Rome
Italy has banned cruise ships from the Venice lagoon in what appears to be a definitive move welcomed by anti-cruise ship campaigners.
“We finally seem to have got there,” said Tommaso Cacciari, the leader of No Grandi Navi (No Big Ships), an activist group that has been protesting against the vessels for more than a decade.
Spurred to act quickly after Unesco threatened to put Venice on its endangered list unless Italy permanently banned cruise ships from docking in the world heritage site, the government said on Tuesday that vessels weighing more than 25,000 tonnes would be barred from the lagoon from 1 August.
Cruise companies will have to scrap Venice from their itineraries until the industrial port of Marghera is repurposed for passenger use. The government has appointed a commissioner to fast-track the job, which would ordinarily take about six months. Meanwhile, a call for bids for the construction of a terminal equipped to take ships weighing more than 40,000 tonnes was published at the end of June.
The 25,000-tonne limit means only small passenger ferries and freight vessels will be able to use the Giudecca canal to enter Venice’s historic centre.
Workers and companies affected by the changes will be compensated, according to a statement from the prime minister Mario Draghi’s office.
“The decree adopted today constitutes an important step for the protection of the Venetian lagoon,” the statement said.
In early June, activists protested after being caught by surprise when a cruise liner sailed into the city despite an announcement from government in April banning the ships.
At the same time, a counter-protest was held by Si Grandi Navi, a movement that supports the thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the cruise industry and who had been out of work since the pandemic struck in spring last year.
The Cruise Lines International Association said: “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.”