The onset of the Coronavirus pandemic has led to a lot of changes in the world of tourism. The luxury cruise business has been severely hit with many large cruisers being forced to remain docked since March 2020. This has given environmentalists reason to celebrate especially in Venice, Italy that has been campaigning for the protection of their lagoon from these large ships that they feel have been the cause of severe erosion that might have led to the recent floods seen in the recent years.
The Italian Government has recently ruled that even after Cruise ships resume their voyages, they will no longer be permitted to pass the famous St Marks Square. Citing the need to protect the “artistic, cultural and environmental heritage of Venice,” the Italian cabinet passed a decree late Wednesday calling for “urgent provisions” to detour cruise activities and freight traffic.
Dario Franceschini, Italy’s minister of culture, tweeted that it was the “correct decision, and one that had been waited for for years.” He added that UNESCO has called for this in the past.
“Anyone who has visited Venice in recent years has been shocked to see these ships, hundreds of meters long and as tall as apartment buildings, passing through such fragile places,” he said following the vote.
But even as environmentalists celebrated the government’s decision, they expressed concerns about the government’s plans to detour cruise ships to the port of Marghera, the industrial hub on the lagoon, until the new mooring station outside the lagoon is built stating that this went against the very spirit of the decree.
Still others worried that the canal leading to Marghera would have to be enlarged to accommodate large ships, “which would be a kick in the stomach” to environmental initiatives, said Maria Rosa Vittadini, a retired professor at the University of Venice. This would cost millions of Euros which would make it permanent and thereby add to the risk of permanent environmental damage.
Valeria Duflot, founder of social enterprise Venezia Autentica, called it “positive news” but added that “this should not be greenwashing but a real step in the right direction.”
She also called for cruise companies to contribute financially to the new port, and for a “low impact shuttle system” to be brought in for tenders taking passengers into the lagoon.
“Venice claims to want to become a capital of sustainability,” she added.
“Regulating the cruise industry is a crucial step to do so. As one of the main ports of the Mediterranean, Venice has the power to move the needle.
“We’re asking the city to be courageous and set an example.”
It isn’t the first time the authorities have tried to ban cruise ships.
A move by the Italian government in 2019 to reroute large vessels failed when the government fell shortly afterward.