Protesters at Venice harbour try to block departure of MSC cruise ship

The first cruise ship to leave Venice since Covid-19 restrictions were eased set sail on Saturday June 5th, but the MSC Orchestra (IMO 9320099) faced protests from some of the local population who are opposed to ships as large as the MSC Orchestra (92,000 gt) using Venice Harbour, and want the ships to stop calling there immediately.

People on land and in small boats flew flags saying “no big ships”. The MSC Orchestra was travelling to Croatia and Greece.

Port authorities, workers and the city government welcomed the departure of the cruise ship. Francesco Galietti, Italy’s national director for the trade group Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), said that “we are happy to be back… to restart the engines. We care a lot about Venice and we’ve been asking for a stable and manageable solution for ships for many years”.

Galietti said that “if Venice is taken off the itineraries all the Adriatic will suffer the consequences … it would be a huge impact.”

The CLIA has claimed that the cruise business represents more than 3% of Venice’s GDP.

Currently the larger vessels still pass through the lagoon and dock not far from the famed St. Mark’s Square. Italy’s government ruled in April that cruise ships and container vessels must not enter Venice’s historic centre but rather dock elsewhere. However, the “ban”, issued with loud publicity, turned out to be full of caveats. One was that it would not take effect until terminals outside the lagoon had been completed. A tender for their construction has not yet been launched.

The MSC Orchestra will be cruising at half-capacity due to Covid-19 social distancing rules.

2007-built, Panama-flagged, 92,409 gt MSC Orchestra is owned by Orchestra Bail Gie care of MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co of Geneva, Switzerland. It is entered with UK Club on behalf of MSC Cruise Management (UK) Ltd.