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Italy Agrees to Divert Cruise Ships from Venice to Industrial Port

Cruise ships diverted from Venice
The historic Venice lagoon (file photo)

Published Mar 26, 2021 6:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

The long-running debate about cruise ships sailing through the waterways of Venice, Italy took a turn on March 25 with ministers from Italy agreeing to a temporary ban on large cruise ships docking in the historic city. When the cruise industry returns to service, large ships will divert to a nearby industrial port.

“In order to protect a historical-cultural heritage not only Italian but of the whole world,” the ministers for the environment, culture, tourism, and infrastructure agreed to temporarily divert the cruise ships to the port of Marghera. Located on the mainland, the port is only about 10 miles from the city but passengers will no longer have the opportunity to enjoy the scenic transit of the canal past the famed St. Mark’s Square and other historic locations.

Passengers will be required to take taxis, busses, or possibly launches from the industrial port to the historic city. In the past cruise ships could run their own launches from the dock near the train station in Venice to the city center or arrange for tour boats to come alongside the cruise ships at the city’s dock.

Critics of the cruise ship industry have cited the large ships as one of the contributors to the challenges Venice faces from rising waters and pollution. They had long called for a ban on ships from docking in Venice and had previously won limitations on the size of ships that could enter the lagoon.

The ministers in announcing their decision said that was only a temporary solution. During a meeting, the four Ministers agreed to launch a competition for ideas to bring the landings out of the lagoon and to solve the problem of the transit of large ships in Venice.

A Unesco World Heritage City, Venice has been seeking solutions to the rising tidal waters which frequently flood the historic city center. Critics blame the wash from the cruise ships as contributing to the flooding problems that are threatening parts of the city and the historic buildings. Critics also cite the cruise ship emissions as damaging the air and contributing to the decay of some of the oldest structures in addition to calling the ships an eyesore of the landscape.

A popular and scenic destination, the cruise lines had opposed the limitations on their ability to bring passengers directly into the city. However, as the ships have grown larger, some of the cruise lines decided that it was more practical to redirect their ships to neighboring ports.

Critics of the cruise ship industry have used the year-long pause in operations to renew their efforts to block the large ships from returning to their ports. Last fall, the residents of Key West, Florida passed referendums to limit cruise ship arrivals while in Bar Harbor, Maine they are currently exploring proposals to also limited cruise ship arrivals.