Italy bars large cruise liners from Venice after Unesco threat of blacklisting

Scenes like this will soon be a thing of the past in Venice
Scenes like this will soon be a thing of the past in Venice Miguel MEDINA AFP

Italy has decided to ban all large cruise liners from entering the Venice lagoon after Unesco - the UN's culture conservation wing - threatened to put the city on its endangered list unless it stopped them from docking in the world heritage site.


Some countries - especially developed ones - prefer to evade the stigma of having one of their sites being placed on the list while others use it as a chance to receive grants from Unesco's World Heritage Committee and respond to the threat.

Italy has opted to avoid ignominy. From 1 August, all vessels that weigh more than 25,000 tons, are longer than 180 metres, more than 35 metres high and produce more than 0.1 percent of sulphur will no longer be allowed to travel along the shallow Giudecca Canal that leads to Venice’s famous landmark at St Mark’s Square.

"This constitutes an important step for the protection of the lagoon,” said a decree issued by Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office.


Starting next month only small passenger ferries and small freight vessels will be able to sail along the Giudecca Canal and enter Venice’s historic centre.

The decree also declared the urban waterways of St Mark's Basin, St Mark's Canal and the Giudecca Canal as national monuments.

For years local residents and the international community have campaigned for urgent measures to be taken to safeguard Venice's heritage and delicate ecosystem. Pollution of the canals has also been a significant concern.

The conservationist lobby have demanded a ban on giant ships claiming they are destroying the city. But business leaders say Venice badly needs the tourism that cruise liners bring, particularly after the months of lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.


The cruise industry, which will suffer significant losses, said it has been supportive of finding a solution.

For the time being, big ships have been told they should use docking sites near the industrial port of Marghera until a more suitable area is identified and readied for passenger use.

A government call for bids for the construction of a new terminal was published two weeks ago. A special commissioner to fast-track the construction of a new terminal has also been appointed.

The government’s decree has also established compensation mechanisms for workers and navigation companies that will be affected by the new ban.

Thousands of workers whose livelihoods rely on the cruise industry have already severely suffered from the stoppages caused by the pandemic.

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