What was supposed to be a joyous occasion turned sour in Venice on Saturday. The first cruise ship to depart Venice since the start of the outbreak caused a mass protest from opponents of the cruise ships sailing from the lagoon city.
The protest comes after the city banned large cruise ships from entering the city in March of this year; however, the ban will only come into effect once a new cruise terminal has been constructed outside of the city. It is a difficult situation as the city counts on the millions of visitors each year for its income.
Protestors: Big Ships Out of the Lagoon
MSC Orchestra was accompanied by many small boats and jetski’s with protestors carrying signs, flags, and banners that read ‘Big ships out of the Lagoon’ and ‘No Big Ships.’ The protestors do not agree with ships still being able to sail into the city despite the ban that has been in place since March of this year.
Cruise ships still cross the Guidecca channel, the main channel in Venice, and will continue to do so until a new terminal has been constructed. Something which is not happening soon, according to Reuters.
One resident said to BBC the cruise ships still cause excessive pollution and erosion in a city already under threat from rising sea levels.
Marta Sottoriva, a 29-year old teacher and Venice resident said, “Despite the cruise ships ban, these giant cruise ships are still going to cross the Guidecca channel. The reason we are here is because we are citizens of Venice and we are against this passage, but we are also against a type of tourism model that is destroying our city, pushing out the people that want to live here, and polluting so so much.”
The protest was organized by the No Grandi Navi movement, which is pushing for a new cruise terminal in a different location. They found support from several celebrities, such as Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones, who sent a letter to the city government. The letter said Venice “is suffering.” And “this fragile entity cannot survive if we continue like this.”
Although the cruise lines did already ban any ships over 100,000 tonnes from the city center and agreed on terms over different routes to the terminal, it seems the protestors believe this is not enough yet and are actively seeking a total ban of cruise ships. Something that could prove devastating to the thousands of people that depend on the cruise ships in the city.
Counter-Protest Welcomes Back Cruise Ships
Cruise ships certainly still have a warm welcome from most inhabitants of the historical tourism magnet. A counter-protest came out in support of the cruise lines and waved white flags as MSC Orchestra sailed by.
The counter-protestors argued that the cruise lines bring millions of euros every year to the city and provide jobs to thousands more. Already cruise lines have to pay three euros per passenger to the city government. With 667 cruise ship visits in 2019, it is indeed a significant income factor for the city.
The cruise industry organization CLIA is delighted that ships can dock in Venice again. The Cruise Lines International Association calls it a positive signal for the multi-billion dollar industry.
Francesco Galietti, national director of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said, “we are happy to be back… to restart the engines. We care a lot about Venice and we’ve been asking for a stable and manageable solution for ships for many years. Venice is where many itineraries begin or end, the economic impact on Venice is huge. If Venice is taken off the itineraries all the Adriatic (Sea) will suffer the consequences … it would have a huge impact.”
For now, cruise ships will continue to visit the historical city center. However, cruise lines will undoubtedly be listening to the protests and the negative image it projects on a vital industry for the region. Something which the port authorities agree with as well. A spokesperson said that although they support the ban of ships from the city, alternatives need to be available given the significant impact on tourism and the economy.