Italy bans large cruise ships from Venice

Ddeclaring Venice’s waterways a “national monument,” Italy bans gigantic cruise ships from sailing in the lagoon city, which was at risk of being declared a World Heritage Site in Danger by the United Nations later this month.

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said the ban was urgently adopted at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday July 13 and would come into force on August 1. It applies to the lagoon basin near St. Mark’s Square and to the Giudecca Canal, which is a major marine artery in Venice. .

Franceschini said the government had decided to act quickly “to avoid the concrete risk” that the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, would add Venice to its list of “World Heritage in Danger” after its meeting began. later this week in Beijing.

The Cabinet decree “also establishes an inviolable principle, declaring the urban waterways of the San Marco basin, the San Marco canal and the Giudecca canal a national monument,” the minister added.

Before the coronavirus pandemic dramatically curtailed international travel, cruise ships unloading thousands of day trippers overwhelmed Venice and its delicate marine environment. Environmentalists and cultural heritage have fought for decades with commercial interests, as the cruise industry is a major source of income for the city.

The government’s decision was “awaited by UNESCO and by all those who have been to Venice and who have been left disturbed by the enormous size of these ships passing through the most fragile and beautiful place in the world,” Franceschini said. to journalists.

UNESCO last month recommended placing Venice on the agency’s list of World Heritage sites in danger. There was no immediate comment from the UN cultural agency. The Italian government had decided earlier this year on a ban but did not quickly set a date for its entry into force.

But now the government “has decided to impose a strong acceleration” on the implementation of this measure given the imminent review by UNESCO, Franceschini said in a statement.

Another impetus was the surprising appearance in early June of a 92,000-ton cruise ship descending the Giudecca Canal for the first time since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, effectively suspended mass tourism to Venise.

The ban applies to ships weighing more than 25,000 tonnes or exceeding 180 meters (530 feet) or exhibiting other characteristics that would make them too polluting or overwhelming for Venice’s environment.

The office of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi clarified that ships which do not have any of these characteristics and are therefore “considered sustainable” for the Venetian environment can continue to dock in Venice. The Prime Minister’s Office noted that licensed ships typically have around 200 passengers compared to the thousands that huge cruise ships carry.

With only a few hours of time ashore in Venice, passengers on large ocean liners tend to crowd around classic tourist spots like St. Mark’s Square, adding to the city’s already crowded public spaces.

No cars are allowed in historic Venice, which consists of narrow alleys and numerous bridges connecting the passages. During the high tourist season, which occupies a good part of the year in Venice, navigating on foot is a major challenge.

The Cabinet decree also establishes compensation mechanisms for shipping companies and others affected by the ban. Until a more suitable mooring area can be established elsewhere in the waters outside the heart of Venice, the government has approved the creation of at least four temporary mooring sites near the industrial port of Marghera, located northwest of the Adriatic Sea.

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