Italy bans cruise ships from Venice lagoon, again

Italy has banned cruise ships from Venice Lagoon, effective August 1st. Earlier this year a ban was “announced”, only for the fine print to reveal that the caveats attached to the ban meant that in the short term at least the larger cruise vessels could still head into the heart of Venice.

It is possible that this time round the Italian government acted with more urgency because UN culture organization UNESCO had threatened to put Italy on a blacklist for not banning liners from the World Heritage site. The ban itself has divided politicians and citizens in the area, with many businesses fearing that a requirement for the larger vessels to use a port some kilometres distant will cost them trade, while many in the local population consider the huge ships to be disproportionate to the size of the lagoon, resulting in environmental damage and disturbance.

From August 1st all ships weighing more than 25,000 tonnes – relatively small in the modern world of cruise holidays – from the shallow Giudecca Canal that leads past Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square).

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said in a tweet announcing the cabinet’s approval of the decree that he was “proud of a commitment that had been honoured”, His tweet confirmed a previous Reuters report.

The legislation provides compensation for firms and workers involved, the culture ministry said.

Venice residents and the international community have been urging various Italian governments for years to ban large ships from passing through the lagoon, but port authorities and tourist operators say the city needs the business offered by the cruise industry.

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 could berth. In the meantime, large boats were told to dock at the industrial port of Marghera, that port lacks a suitable docking point for cruise ships, meaning that the smaller lagoon docking point was still being used.

The government’s decree appoints a special commissioner to fast-track the docking station at Marghera.