Italy could push for rerouting of larger cruise ships away from Venice

Italy’s government could move to reroute some of the larger cruise ships away from Guidecca Canal, Venice, according to Minister of Transport Danilo Toninelli.

Following a collision between cruise ship MSC Opera and a tour boat in Venice in June, a government working group is now examining ways in which the risk from cruise ship movements in Venice’s city centre can be reduced.

The group is considering a plan that would send up to a third of the cruise ships that currently call at Venice to alternative ports, such as Lombardia and Fusina cruise terminals. He said that the process could begin as early as next month.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) noted that, contrary to earlier media reports, no final decision had yet been made.

Tom Boardley, Secretary General of Cruise Lines International Association Europe, said that “we are still in agreement with the solution developed by Comitatone in 2017, to utilize the Vittorio Emanuele Canal as the best and most prudent means to move larger cruise ships away from the Giudecca. CLIA cruise line members welcome and will support the urgent implementation of this solution.”

CLIA’s preferred alternative would see cruise ships use commercial shipping channels to the south and east of Venice, then loop back through the Vittorio Emanuele Canal to reach the Stazione Marittima terminal, skipping the transit through Venice’s heart. This plan has already been negotiated and agreed by Italian government agencies and by the cruise industry. However, it would require dredging the Vittorio Emanuele Canal to give enough depth for larger vessels, and this would require an environmental review.  

Historic preservation activists cite studies showing that the passage of large vessels could accelerate erosion of the seabed in the area of Venice, further destabilizing the firmament upon which the historic city sits. They are also opposed to the ships’ exhaust emissions, the potential risk of a marine casualty, and the large numbers of tourists who disembark from the ships directly into the heart of the city.

On June 2nd, 2,600-passenger cruise ship MSC Opera hit a dock and a moored tourist boat at the San Basilio Pier on the canal, injuring four people. An investigation into that incident is continuing.

Then on July 7th cruise ship Costa Deliziosa was passing through the Giudecca Canal during a severe storm and had a near-miss encounter with a pier and a moored superyacht during the transit. Costa Cruises emphasized that “the commander has always maintained control of the ship even in conditions of extreme and sudden difficulty.”