Leading museum directors and celebrities call on Italian government to ban giant ships from Venice
Petition signed by actors Rob Lowe, Cate Blanchett and Michael Caine as well as Richard Armstrong and Nicholas Penny
By Gareth Harris. Web only
Published online: 23 July 2014
More than 50 leading figures from the worlds of art, film, fashion and architecture have signed a petition calling for a ban on giant cruise ships sailing through Venice. Cate Blanchett, Julie Christie, Michael Caine and Rob Lowe are among the signatories urging the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the Italian Minister of Culture and Tourism, Dario Franceschini, to “halt the passage of the big ships across the Bacino San Marino and along the Giudecca canal”.
Nicholas Penny, the director of the National Gallery in London, Richard Armstrong, the director of the Guggenheim Foundation, the architect Norman Foster and his wife Elena also endorse the appeal which has been launched by the Association of the International Private Committees for the Safeguarding of Venice, a network of conservation organisations backed by Unesco.
Last year, the Italian government 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 which will allow the ships to arrive in the port of Venice round the back of the city.
At a meeting called on 6 November, the then 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, via the Canale Contorta Sant'Angelo, would be carried out.
But in March a regional tribunal overturned the Italian government’s partial ban on large cruise ships, pending a court hearing in October. Ships subsequently continue to arrive—more than 1,100 sailings a year back and forth through the city— because of the major contribution they make to the economy of the port. The largest of the ships is 110,000 gross tonnes and the length of three football pitches (the Titanic was 46,000 gross tonnes).
Anna Somers Cocks, the chief executive of The Art Newspaper, has signed the petition. She says: “The situation is that the ships are still coming in as before because there is no acceptable alternative route, the proposed Canale Contorta Sant'Angelo being too damaging to the lagoon because it would have to be dredged to a depth of about 20 metres, which would accelerate sediment loss. A proposed floating port outside the Lido entrance, with passengers coming in on smaller boats, would be the best solution, but where is the money to come from?”
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