The new ban will protect Venice's historical architecture, while allowing it to continue benefiting from cruise tourism (Image: Dorian Mongel)
The Italian government is to ban large cruise ships from sailing down Venice’s Grand Canal and past St Mark’s Square following years of protests from local residents and environmental campaigners.
Currently, cruise ships sail past Piazza San Marco and the entrance to the Grand Canal, before entering the Giudecca Canal to head along the Zattere waterfront and into the international cruise port in the lagoon. However, campaigners have long argued that the fumes and vibrations of vessels passing within a few hundred yards of St Mark’s Square have damaged the city’s historic buildings, while the waves they create have eroded the banks of Giudecca Canal.
In 2013, ships weighing more than 96,000gt were banned from the Giudecca canal, while the number of smaller ships using the waterway was limited to five a day, but the legislation was overturned at the end of 2015.
Now, new plans call for cruise ships weighing more than 55,000gt to enter Venice lagoon from the Adriatic through an inlet much further south than the one they currently use and then dock at a terminal in the industrial port of Marghera. Passengers will then be ferried to Venice in smaller boats or in coaches that can drive along the land bridge connecting the mainland to the city.
Smaller cruise vessels – those of 55,000gt or less – will be permitted to continue using the present route. It is expected the new route, which will require canals to be dredged, will be open in the next three to four years.
The decision follows an informal referendum organised by a campaign group in June 2017, where nearly 99% of the 18,000 Venetians who participated voted in favour of completely banning large cruise ships from entering Venice’s lagoon.
Graziano Delrio, Italy’s transport minister, said that the move will help to protect Venice’s historical buildings and cultural heritage, while helping the city to continue reaping the economic benefits of the cruise industry.