Conservation Heritage News Italy

About 180 fewer cruise ships through Venice, but a lagoon-damaging channel to be dredged

The “No to the Big Ships” lobbyists to press for a port outside the lagoon

Cruise ships in the Venice lagoon. Photo: Anna Zemella

The Italian government had decided to reduce the number of cruise ships sailing through Venice by close to 30% from November 2014, but at the cost of further damaging the lagoon through deep dredging a channel to allow the ships to arrive in the port of Venice round the back of the city.

At a meeting called on 6 November, prime minister Enrico Letta announced that there would be a gradual reduction in the number of ships entering the city and that the plan favoured by Paolo Costa, president of the Venice Port Authority, of a new route through the lagoon would be carried out.

Venice will be temporarily free of all cruise ships for the next five months because the process of building the flood barriers at the Lido entrance into the lagoon is preventing them from entering the lagoon. In addition, from January 2014 the Adriatic ferry boats will cease to sail through Venice and will dock on the mainland side of the lagoon instead.

From April 2014 the cruise ships will be back, but 20% fewer of those above 40,000 gross tonnes will be allowed to dock in the Venice port, while from November 2014 onwards, no ships above 94,000 gross tonnes (around 180 of the total) will sail through Venice, but will arrive at the port by the Canale Contorta Sant’Angelo, which will by then have been deep-dredged.

The announcement glosses over the fact that about 475 relatively large ships (for comparison, the Titanic was only 46,000 gross tonnes) will still be entering Venice every year, while the dredging of the Canale Contorta will accelerate the loss of sediment from the bottom of the lagoon, adding to the damage already caused by the channel dredged in the 1960s for the petrol tankers, which is one of the reasons why the lagoon is getting deeper and choppier.

The new plan ignores previous proposals to build a floating port outside the lagoon, of which Luciano Claut, a councillor of the lagoon-side town of Mira, said, “[it would] protect both the whole historic city of Venice and its lagoon”. According to the Corriere del Veneto, Silvio Testa, spokesman for the “No to the Big Ships” campaign, said that they would fight against the “devastating” plan to dredge the Canale Contorta by invoking the Assessment of Environmental Impact, which is obligatory by law and decrees that all alternative proposals, including those to exclude the big ships entirely from the lagoon, must be evaluated.

The mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, who has opposed the Canale Contorta option in favour of mooring the ships at Marghera on the mainland side of the lagoon, was quoted by the Corriere del Veneto as saying: “For the first time the government has intervened in a practical way over the big cruise ships and this in itself is important. It is also important that the tendency towards bigger and bigger ships in the lagoon has been inverted—no more mega ships right up against St Mark’s Square. Starting from now, let’s have very precise limits on the size of ships entering the lagoon.”

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12 Nov 13
15:21 CET


We, in Key West, in a municipal vote just defeated a "study" about dredging our harbor for bigger cruise ships. I'm pleased that the cruise ships will not dock near the main attractions of Venice, but think all plans for dredging should be studied carefully before beginning. It would be best if no cruise ships docked near Venice. Cruise ship passengers who want to visit Venice should have to take a train or a ferry like other visitors who do not arrive by car (which must be parked immediately on arrival). Venice's special characteristics are trivialized by huge floating hotels that dwarf the beauty of this low-profile old town.

12 Nov 13
15:21 CET


This is good news. We have been in Venice on many occasions and have been distressed by these floating behemoths, which not only cause damage to the lagoon, but block the wonderful views of the Venetian archipelago.

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