Italy’s government has ruled that large cruise ships and container vessels must not pass close to Venice’s historic centre and should instead dock in a different location to preserve the famed lagoon.
A decree approved late on Wednesday called for public consultations on building a terminal outside the lagoon where passenger vessels over 40,000 tons and container ships can berth without passing in front of Saint Mark’s square.
In the meantime, large boats must dock at the industrial Marghera Port, far from the Grand Canal.
“Anyone who has visited Venice in recent years has been shocked to see these ships, hundreds of metres long and as tall as apartment buildings, passing through such fragile places,” Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said on Thursday.
Venice residents have been urging governments for years to ban large ships from the lagoon and concerns were heightened 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 dock and a tourist boat in Venice as it was approaching a passenger terminal on the Giudecca canal, injuring four people.
The government said in a statement that it wanted to “reconcile the needs to protect the artistic, cultural and environmental heritage of Venice and its lagoon with those related to cruise activity and goods traffic”.
It was not immediately clear if this latest attempt at protecting Venice from large cruise ships would succeed.
In 2013, the then government banned vessels of more than 96,000 gross tonnes from crossing the Giudecca canal, but a local court later overturned the ruling.
In 2017 another government tried again, telling big vessels to dock at Marghera. Once again many tour operators managed to navigate around the order.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, which has ravaged the cruise industry, Venice was among Italy’s main tourist venues drawing over 25 million visitors a year.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)