Are Cruise Ships Destroying Venice?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Between the breathtaking architecture, serenading gondoliers and awe-inspiring Murano glass jewelry, it’s hard to resist the many charms of Venice. Tourists from all over the world flock to the Italian maritime city to experience its picturesque sights and attractions, and most commonly, do so via cruise vacations. Unfortunately, not everyone is keen on large ships navigating through Venice’s waterways.

This week, lines were drawn between those who support cruise ship tourism and those who are claiming it is destroying the city’s ecosystem and integrity. While it can’t be argued that the cruise industry brings in a substantial amount of revenue, at what point does monetary gain outweigh the risk of damaging the city’s very foundation?

Over the last 15 years, cruise-ship tourism in Venice has increased by 439 percent, and the maritime lawyers at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. know that all too well. Since 1971, our lawyers have seen the number of cases involving cruise ships grow exponentially, and it’s obvious that despite any recession in the economy, the demand for cruise travel never appears to slow down.

Some residents in Venice are ecstatic about what cruise ship tourism has done for their own economy, and have decided to celebrate in style. On Tuesday night, around 1,800 people gathered at Venice’s passenger port to celebrate the booming tourism market at what they were calling a “Port Party.” But while over 650 ships make their way through Venice each year, not every resident is happy with the price the city has to pay in exchange for revenue. Those opposed to the cruise ships argue that the city has so many tourists it has become “unlivable.”

“If the benefit of tourism is the death of a city, then tourism is not worth it,” said Silvio Testa, spokesman for No Grandi Navi, or No Big Ships. “Cruise ships may not be entirely to blame, but they are a major component of a mechanism that is changing Venice like a gradual tide that erodes the substance of the city.”

Others argue that the ships are affecting their quality of life. According to Matteo Secchi, head of the pro-Venice group Venessia, which would like to ban the ships from the city, “The vibration from the maxi-ships feels like small earthquakes under your feet.”

Ecological experts also say that the cruise ships displace around 90,000 tons of water when they move, causing changes in the sediment and the overall state of the lagoon. Some argue that the best solution would be to build an outside port to limit activity within Venice, but whether that idea will gain any support has yet to be seen.