Venice to Ban Large Cruise Ships From August 1st

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In a not all too surprising move, Venice will be banning large cruise ships from docking inside the city’s historical center from August 1. The city decided this after mounting pressure from activist groups and not in the least from UNESCO, the world heritage organization.

Cruise ships will now need to be rerouted to the nearby port of Porto Marghera, a little further down from Venice. However, that could prove more complicated than it seems.

Ban Only in Place for Large Cruise Ships

Pressure has been mounting for years on the Italian Government to take action against the arrival of large cruise ships. Critics have stated the ships do irreparable damage to the environment and the foundations of the city. Not only that, many feel the large cruise ships are an eyesore in the skyline of the city. Several incidents with accidents involving cruise ships have not done the cruise companies any favors.

For now, cruise ships that are larger than 25,000 tons, longer than 180 meters, and higher than 35 meters are banned from the historical part of town and will need to sail to Porto Marghera, which is only a few miles away. Previously the ban was only in effect for ships over 100,000 tons, although that was on hold until a new terminal had been built.

Sailings from and to Venice have always been popular; in fact, Venice is one of the most popular ports in the Mediterranean to take a cruise from. The sail away from the docks in the city has long been a dream destination for many cruise fans.

The Italian Government has promised to compensate cruise companies for any loss in revenue they would experience from the move. The Government is also saying it would be compensating any dockworkers and others involved in the cruise industry in the city. The Council of Ministers unanimously adopted the move on Tuesday night.

Italian Culture Minister Franceschini:

‘A decision awaited by UNESCO and everyone who has been to Venice. ‘By everyone who was stunned by the enormity of the ships that pass through the most beautiful and fragile city in the world. It is an important decision.’

Cruise Ship in Venice
Photo Credit: Stefan Rotter /

Is Porto Marghera The Answer For Venice?

As we reported only weeks ago, the question is whether Porto Marghera is the answer to the erosion and environmental issues Venice is experiencing. Rerouting the large cruise ships to the nearby port merely deals with the visual impact of having ships in the city itself.

To get to the port, the ships will still need to pass through the channel in Venice itself, while that same channel needs to be deepened to accommodate the ships. Something one of the residents said in a reaction to Dutch newspaper does not deal with the problem at all:

”Absurd, this is a farce. Porto Marghera is not a solution to the problem. They only take the ships out of sight, we don’t see them anymore, but the problem remains. The lagoon will be affected either way.”

The timing for the move from the Italian Government is not unexpected. World Heritage Organization UNESCO has planned a meeting on Venice this week, threatening to take the city off the World Heritage list and blacklist it if Italy did not do a better job protecting Venice from the excesses of mass tourism.

How Venice and Porto Marghera plan to accommodate ships, for the time being, remains a question unanswered. The Guidecca channel, the main channel in Venice, will need to be deepened to give ships access to the alternative port, and a new cruise terminal is only in the bidding stage. It could very well mean more cancelations or cruise lines abandoning Venice altogether.

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