Venice to cruise ships: Get out please

Venice is proud of its heritage. Home to beautiful architecture, canals, bridges, gondolas, the annual Venice Film Festival, the Basilica and many other churches along with museums like the Guggenheim, its probably no surprise that cruise ships are not on the top of their list of things to add to the mix. In the wake of the Concordia grounding, considering the threat of accidents, air and water pollution, and an additional 2 million more visitors a year into a city already maxed out with tourists, Venice has a plan to keep cruise ships away.

The city does not want cruise ships in their lagoon at all but as a first step to keep them away, wants to reroute ships arriving in Venice so they stay farther from St. Mark’s and other prominent monuments as a possible step toward keeping them out of the lagoon altogether.

“This is one of the hypotheses we’re working on,” Environmental Minister Corrado Clini told the Associated Press. “In the meantime we should take precautionary measures to progressively reduce risk.”

The Venice Port Authority opposes moves against cruise traffic saying the cruise industry employs thousands of Venetians and believes Venice is not a candidate for cruise ships to run aground like the Concordia did last month, not all that far away.

In addition, a team of 25 cruise ship captains work around the clock as pilots of a sort, assigned to board cruise ships outside the lagoon and oversee their passage through Venice, accompanied by a pair of tug boats.

To deal with the air pollution, the port is exploring a system that would let ships plug in to shore side power when docked, similar to how ships plug in to U.S. West coast ports, allowing them to turn off their engines. Like U.S. systems, a green shore side power system will be costly and seems to have stalled for that reason.

Unlike U.S. ports concerned about the impact of cruise ships though, Venice is a United Nations-protected UNESCO site and Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO’s assistant director-general for culture, a Venetian himself, said longer-term solutions are needed.

“The city is a very fragile city. This is a city that comes to us from the Middle Ages,” Bandarin told the AP. “It is not designed for having that kind of traffic. It is designed to have ships, and we will always have ships around Venice, but not these kind of ships.”

Flickr photo by jastrow75