Tourist’s death prompts Venice to ban cruise ships from Grand Canal
The eyesore of cruise ships on Venice's famous skyline could soon become ancient history, as the behemoths are set to be banned from the city's waterways.
The eyesore of cruise ships on Venice’s famous skyline could soon become ancient history, as the behemoths are set to be banned from the city’s waterways.
The new proposals by Italy’s Environment Minister follow a crackdown on water traffic, after the death of a German tourist two weeks ago.
Joachim Vogel, 50, a professor of criminal law, was crushed against a dock by a reversing vaporetto water bus as he took a tour with his family by gondola near the Rialto Bridge.
The tragic accident has prompted authorities to bring in a series of new safety regulations including ‘a floating congestion zone’ on the Grand Canal to ease the chaotic rush hour waterway traffic. Breathalyser tests for gondoliers are also imminent.
Venice’s proud residents have long been up in arms about the presence of large cruise ships passing through the lagoon, with a flotilla of protesters taking to the waters in June.
Lobbyists argue that the huge ships, sometimes ten storeys high, erode the canals and the city’s fragile foundations, contribute to the worsening flooding that occurs every winter and damage the delicate eco-systems of the lagoon.
The cruise companies pay huge port fees for the privilege, but their passengers frequently eat and sleep on board and contribute little direct revenue to restaurants and hotels.
The Italian Environment Minister Andrea Orlando said he would put the proposals in front of cross party parliamentary committee in October.
He told the Italian daily Il Gazettino: ‘There will always be a margin of risk and even that margin is too high a risk.
‘The problem is not just the presence of large ships in St Marks basin but in general the presence of ships in the lagoon.’
He expected a ‘concrete response that could be translated into immediate action’, as the problem is getting worse all the time, he said.
‘The number of cruise ships passing in front of St Marks’s Cathedral has grown by seven per cent this year alone.’
The proposals would essentially put in action emergency legislation drafted after the Concordia tragedy, that would prevent ships of more than 500 tonnes coming within two nautical miles of landscapes of value such as the Venice lagoon or fragile environments such as the marine sanctuary between Sardinia and north-east Italy.
Venice’s mayor wants to see cruise tourists dock at Porto Marghera, a town blighted by industrial pollution. Other suggestions have included a floating off-shore port.
Alternative solutions would see the number of cruise ships allowed to enter the lagoon severely limited, or the dredging of a new approach to the same cruise passenger terminals but avoiding the narrow canals around St Marks Square.
On Saturday another huge cruise ship was photographed passing within yards of St Marks, in ‘a bow’ to the city inevitably raising the spectre of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, which sank after hitting rocks off the coast of Tuscany during just such a bow to the island of Giglio last year.
Tensions were raised in July after the Carnival Sunshine, which is owned by the same parent company as the notorious Costa Concordia, allegedly passed within yards of the city’s bank while performing ‘a sail by salute’ to a major company shareholder.
Film footage appeared to show the 110 thousand ton liner squeezing a vaporetto water taxi and other boats between the ship and the bank. Carnival denied any wrongdoing.