Venice and cruise ships: a delicate balance

There are two main proposals: redirect ships to Marghera, the main commercial port of the lagoon on the mainland, or build a port outside the lagoon.

The problem with Marghera, said a representative of the Venice Port Authority, is that “it is a commercial port for containers, it is not built for passengers”. Additionally, given that Marghera is inside the lagoon, critics say that the cruise ship rerouting will not help limit environmental damage.

As for the construction of another port: on April 1, the Italian government approved the allocation of funds for a feasibility study of such a project. But the process of drawing up plans for the single project is expected to last until mid-2022, the port authority said, leaving little hope that a new port would provide a solution in the short or even medium term.

Stopping cruise ship traffic until a new port is ready would have an economic impact. Before the pandemic, the cruise industry employed, directly and indirectly, 4,200 people in the region, according to the port authority, and reported revenues of 280 million euros (more than $ 332 million), although the most of this money does not go to the historic center of Venice. .

In the meantime, UNESCO is getting impatient. Last month, the agency released a report urging the Italian government to prioritize “the option of completely banning large vessels from the lagoon” and set a deadline for “temporarily rerouting vessels” to Marghera or elsewhere.

The agency also announced the same day that it was considering adding Venice to its list of endangered World Heritage sites. “The recommendations for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger of UNESCO are not sanctions but alerts to find solutions,” said a representative of the agency in an email statement, mentioning “the mass tourism, especially with the presence of cruise ships “as one of them. concerns of the organization.

But several government officials, speaking anonymously because Italy’s fake coalition government is divided on the matter, said they felt under pressure from UNESCO and, more broadly, the negative publicity Venice received during the event. the return of cruise ships after the pandemic. Recent protests have drawn international media attention to the issue, and Venice is hosting a G20 summit July 8-11.

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