VENICE — After years of protests and pushback the Italian government appears ready to follow through on efforts to ban large cruise ships from entering Guidecca Canal, which leads to the iconic St. Mark’s Square.
Large cruise ships sailing the canal has been a hot-button issue for decades, amid charges of water pollution and erosion to Venice’s centuries-old infrastructure.
Protests in the city ramped up after the MSC Opera’s crash on the canal in June 2019.
The Italian Cabinet passed a decree this week calling for a public tender of ideas to create a new docking port “outside the protected waters of the lagoon.”
Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said the decree addresses longstanding UNESCO concerns and establishes that cargo and cruise ships bigger than 40,000 tons must dock outside the lagoon.
While it’s not articulated in the decree, the temporary plan would have big ships use the Marghera Port on the Italian mainland until a definitive solution is found and implemented, a potentially years-long process.
“Whoever has been to Venice in recent years, either an Italian or foreigner, has been upset seeing these ships — hundreds of meters long and high as a condo — pass by such fragile places as the Giudecca Canal or in front of St. Mark’s Square,” Franceschini said.
He called the decree a “very important” way to come up with a definitive new solution.
Activists opposed to cruise ships in Venice say the latest proposal to re-route big ships away from St. Mark’s Square doesn’t go far enough to address environmental concerns about the Venetian lagoon.
They argue that the Marghera Port is still part of the Venetian lagoon and therefore must be rejected even as a temporary solution. The new route envisaged would take ships past the tail of the Lido and then hug the Italian mainland via the Oil Canal, away from Venice’s historic centre but still into the lagoon and up to Marghera.
With file from The Associated Press