Italy bans cruise ships from Venice lagoon after years of screaming

The Italian government has decided that large cruise ships and container vessels will not be allowed to pass near Venice’s historic center and will instead dock at another location to preserve the famous lagoon.

A decree approved late on Wednesday called for public consultation on building a terminal outside the lagoon where passenger ships over 40,000 tonnes and container ships can end up without passing in front of St. Mark’s Square.

Meanwhile, large boats have to land at the industrial port of Marghera, far from the Grand Canal.

“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, pass through such fragile places,” Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said on Thursday.

For several years, the people of Venice have been urging governments to ban large vessels from the lagoon and concerns have intensified after the Costa Concordia, a 114,500-tonne liner, sank off the Tuscan island of Giglio in 2012 with the loss of 32 lives.

In 2019, a cruise ship collided with a jetty and a tourist boat in Venice as it approached a passenger terminal on the Giudecca Canal, injuring four people.

The government said in a statement that it wanted to “reconcile the need to protect the artistic, cultural and environmental heritage of Venice and its lagoon with those related to cruise activity and freight transport”.

It was not immediately clear whether this latest attempt to protect Venice from large cruise ships would succeed.

In 2013, the then government banned vessels of more than 96,000 gross tons from crossing the Giudecca Canal, but a local court later overturned the decision.

In 2017, another government tried again, asking large vessels to dock at Marghera. Again, many tour operators managed to navigate around the order.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, which has ravaged the cruise industry, Venice was one of Italy’s most important tourist destinations with over 25 million visitors a year.