Hurtigruten takeover
Hurtigruten takeover

Sail away for good: Venice bans cruise ships from lagoon

Italy is finally banning large cruise ships from entering Venice after years of lobbying by residents to protect the city’s environment and heritage for the benefit of future generations.

Italy is finally banning large cruise ships from entering Venice after years of lobbying by residents to protect the city’s environment and heritage for the benefit of future generations.

The Italian government decided to act after the United Nations cultural organisation UNESCO threatened to put Italy on a blacklist for not banning liners from the World Heritage site, one of the sources said.

The ban will take effect from August 1 and includes all ships weighing more than 25,000 tons from the Giudecca Canal that leads past the iconic Piazza San Marco.

Francesco Galietti, Italian director of the international cruise industry trade association CLIA, said the group welcomed an alternative route for cruise ships. Hence, the latest government move was “a major step forward”.

Rome has passed legislation in the past to limit liners’ access to one of the world’s most famous tourist sites, but an alternative docking point is not yet ready.

Venice residents protest

Residents protested in June when the 92,000 tonnes MSC Orchestra sailed through the lagoon en route for Croatia and Greece, attracting international media attention. It was the first cruise ship to leave Venice since COVID-19 restrictions were eased.

In April, Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government approved a decree to build a terminal outside the lagoon where passenger vessels over 40,000 tons and container ships can berth without passing in front of Saint Mark’s Square, the city’s most famous landmark.

In the meantime, large boats were told to dock at the industrial port of Marghera. Still, even this intermediate solution is not yet ready because Marghera lacks a suitable docking point for liners.

Galietti said he understood the government would also appoint a special commissioner to fast-track the docking station at Marghera, which was “a welcome development.”

Venice residents and the international community have been urging governments for years to ban large ships passing through the lagoon, creating pollution and threatening the stability of its buildings and ecosystem.

Such concerns clash with the interests of port authorities and tour operators who say the city needs the business offered by the cruise industry.

Alessandro Santi, who heads Federagenti, a national shipping lobby, said the government was taking no account of the industry, and its approach was “regrettable and creates resentment”.

He accused it of listening to UNESCO and international culture lobbyists while ignoring local “citizens and business people”.

“Limiting the passage of ships won’t solve the difficulties of Venice as a city,” he said.