It’s official, Italy has pulled the plug on large cruise ships after years of environmental concerns in Venice. According to reports, there will now be a cap on the number of ships that can pass through the historic Piazza San Marco beginning in January. Additionally, the nation will also ban on all ships 96,000 gross tons and over from sailing through the Guidecca Canal beginning in November 2014.
Large cruise ships have been an issue for the lagoon city for several years. Our cruise lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have discussed this escalating issue time and time again, but because of the disagreements between environmental activists and government leaders looking to profit from cruise travel, not much has been done to truly limit the impact of big ships.
Due to Venice’s structure, larger ships can displace around 90,000 tons of water as they cruise by, leading to changes in the city’s sediment. This, in turn, has caused city operators to undergo frequent renovations to the city’s foundation.
And aside from the changes to the city itself, larger cruise ships have also contributed to an increase in pollution. The bigger the ship, the greater the number of pollutants that are emitted. Though lines should be constantly upgrading their features to limit their impact on the environment and ecosystems, including improving their water treatments, air pollution treatments and sewage treatments, many cruise lines continue to fail in this regard. Of course, when a ship is over 90,000 tons, and most new ships tend to be, the amount of toxins that will be released will also be much greater.
After a long time of protestors fighting to retain the natural beauty of Venice, several city officials, including Prime Minister Enrico Letta, transport and culture ministers, the governor of the Veneto region and the mayor of Venice, and approved plans to either limit or shut down cruise ship traffic in certain areas of the lagoon.
But this isn’t the first time Italy put a limit on the number of cruise ships calling on Venice. After the Costa Concordia capsizing tragedy in January, 2013, the nation imposed limits on cruise vessels but suspended them in Venice due to the fact that the city is one of the most popular cruise ship destinations in the world.
Naturally, there has always been a debate between environment activists and city leaders regarding what should happen with larger ships. Those against them have argued regarding the negative effects of larger vessels, but city officials, looking to make a profit, have never fully imposed a strict limitation on cruise travel.
Just like the cruise industry profits from itineraries that include calls in Venice, the city also benefits from port calls. Tourists are likely to spend a lot of money in the city, and with good reason. After all, Venice is home to amazing collections of art and fashion – not to mention food – and the more cruise passengers that call on the city, the greater the profit the city will make from tourists spending their money on souvenirs, snacks, jewelry, and any other trinket they fall in love with.
Yet, now it appears that the pros of having large ships carrying thousands of passengers no longer outweigh the cons. If larger ships continue to damage the city’s foundations, there won’t be anything left of Venice for cruise travelers to even see.
Now that the plan is in place, the cruise industry can expect a 20 percent reduction in the number of large vessels to cross the Guidecca Canal.
Looks like there are going to be a lot of angry cruise lines and travelers, but perhaps Italy will work on creating a new cruise terminal that’s far enough away from the city that it will not pose a threat to the environment or perhaps ships will be forced to send tenders out to Venice so passengers can still experience this beloved city. But for now, it looks like a lot of itineraries will be changing.