Italy tries again to keep cruise ships and ULCVs out of Venice lagoon

The Italian government has approved a decree that large cruise ships and container vessels must not pass close to Venice’s historic centre and should instead dock in a different location. The aim is to preserve the lagoon.

The decree, which was approved on Wednesday March 31st, called for public consultations on building a terminal outside the lagoon, where passenger vessels over 40,000 tons and container ships would be able to berth without passing in front of St Mark’s Square.

Meanwhile, any large vessels must dock at the industrial Marghera Port, far from the Grand Canal.

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said on Thursday that “anyone who has visited Venice in recent years has been shocked to see these ships, hundreds of metres long and as tall as apartment buildings, passing through such fragile places,”

Venice residents have been urging governments for years to ban large ships from the lagoon. In 2019, a cruise ship collided with a dock and a tourist boat in Venice as it was approaching a passenger terminal. Four people were injured, but the much-filmed incident brought into high profile the relative size of these vessels compared to smaller boats and, indeed, Venice itself.

The Italian government said that it wanted to “reconcile the needs to protect the artistic, cultural and environmental heritage of Venice and its lagoon with those related to cruise activity and goods traffic”.

In 2013, the then government banned vessels of more than 96,000 gt from crossing the Giudecca canal. A local court later overturned the ruling. Then ,in 2017 another Italian administration told larger vessels to dock at Marghera. Many tour operators found ways to sidestep the order.