Italian Government Bans Cruise Ships In Venice After UNESCO Pressure

Venice, the magnificent Italian floating city of art and architecture, is getting back to a typical summer. Several vaccinated tourists are flocking the city to witness its excellent art galleries and get lost in its labyrinth of pathways, waterways, canals, and bridges.

But there will be one significant change amongst all this! Starting August 1, 2021, large cruise ships will no longer be allowed in this historic city. Ships that exceed 180 metres in length or weigh 25,000 tons face a ban from entering the lagoon.

The ban comes after protests over several years, petitions, and threats of being listed on UNESCO’s endangered list. The campaign to ban cruise ships from the lagoon is spearheaded by the “No Grandi Navi’ (No Huge Ships) protest groups. The campaign found support from numerous leading figures from art, architecture, film, fashion. Additionally, the campaign supporters signed a petition pleading with (former) Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to keep large cruise ships out of Venice.

Port of Venice
Image for representation purpose only

An increasing number of the world’s biggest cruise line operators perceive Venice as a dream destination, and its numerous floating hotels have brought thousands of tourists into the city. But this explosion of tourists has brought innumerable problems for the lagoon. Venice is at risk of flooding as melting polar ice caps lead to rising sea levels and the city sinking approximately one millimetre every year. The problem is worsened by the large cruise ships as they cause large waves. These waves destabilise the underwater ecosystem and can damage the city’s fragile ecosystem.

But as the ships provide substantial contributions to the economy, there was never a decision.

The Italian Government was also under pressure from UNESCO, the United Nations culture agency. UNESCO had warned Italy that unless it banned cruise ships from the lagoon, it might put the city on its list of World Heritage Sites in danger of being lost for good. To relieve itself from the embarrassment of being demoted to a world heritage site at risk, the Italian Government in mid-July decided to ban cruise ships from Venice. This decision was levied a week after the Italian cabinet declared Venice’s waterways as a national monument.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi voiced “pure satisfaction” at banning cruise ships.

The World Heritage Committee, the governing body of the heritage sites, has asked the Italian Government to strategize a definite plan for preserving the ecosystem and rich heritage of Venice.

The Culture Minister of Italy, Dario Franceschini, stated, “Venice should always be a priority ” and emphasised the city’s need to find a “sustainable and good development path.”

However, non-governmental scrutiny groups claimed that the Venice cruise ban leaves several issues that the city faces. For example, problems that arise due to extreme flocking of tourists and the issues related to the management of natural resources. These groups also assert that the quick decision to anchor cruise ships in the industrial port of Marghera still puts the lagoon at risk.


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