A ban restricting large cruise ships from navigating Venice’s Giudecca Canal and St Mark’s basin to the city’s main cruise terminal has been overruled by the city’s regional court of appeal, although the Italian Transport Ministry has confirmed that it will appeal the decision to the Council of State.
The development is the latest in a long-running saga over Venice’s attempts to balance the need for tourism revenue with the desire to protect the fragile foundations of the ‘floating city’ from damage by passing cruise ships.
The initial ban, which was introduced in November 2013, prevented cruise ships in excess of 96,000 gross tons from transiting the Giudecca Canal through the centre of Venice, with strict limitations (five per day) for cruise ships between 40,000-gross tons and 96,000-gross tons. Cruise ships displacing 30,000-gross tons and less were not affected.
Giovanni Puglisi, UNESCO’s president of the Italian National Commission, told Italian media that he is “appalled” by the regional court of appeal’s ruling, saying that the public interest should take precedent over cruise ships.
Despite this latest ruling however, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has confirmed that all its members (representing the bulk of the global cruise fleet), will continue to adhere to the November ban until a definite decision is made regarding a new route to the Venice Cruise Terminal.
“CLIA [Cruise Lines International Association] acknowledges and respects the verdict […] and its member lines have chosen to voluntarily refrain from bringing ships above 96,000 tons to Venice until a new navigational route becomes operational,” the association told cruise review website Cruise Critic.
The new navigational route proposed would see the commercial shipping canal Contorta-Sant’Angelo dredged to link port Marghera with Venice, enabling large cruise ships to circumvent Venice and St Marks basin, while still being able to reach the city’s cruise terminal. An environmental impact assessment for the project is due to be released in March.
Other possible alternatives that have been put forward are the building of a man-made island for large cruise ships to dock at, with passengers then transferred ashore by water taxi. The expensive proposition is unlikely to be taken seriously, however, as it would see Venice’s recently expanded cruise terminal lose cruise ship traffic.