Italy will officially ban large cruise ships from Venice next month to avoid getting “blacklisted” by the United Nations.
The Italian Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini announced the decision on 13 July, declaring the city’s waterways a “national monument”.
The ban will apply to ships larger than 25,000 tonnes, with a waterline hull length of 180 metres or an aerial draft exceeding 35 metres, meaning large yachts may also be excluded from the tourism hotspot.
It applies to Saint Mark’s Square basin and the Giudecca Canal.
The announcement coincided with the Extended 44th session of the World Heritage Committee, which planned to discuss the conservation of the historic city.
In a statement, Franceschini said the government drafted the urgent decree to dodge “the real risk of the city being put on the blacklist of “World Heritage in Danger” sites, which UNESCO recommended last month, according to the Associated Press.
Italy's decision to ban the access of large cruise ships to the Venice Lagoon as of 1 August 2021 is a very good news and an important step that significantly contributes to the safeguarding of this unique heritage site. #Venice @dariofrance https://t.co/vmL52RXzJe
— Audrey Azoulay (@AAzoulay) July 14, 2021
Italian Premier Mario Draghi said, in general, ships carrying up to 200 passengers would be allowed, in comparison to the thousands carried by the large ships the city has grown used to.
The decree also offers compensation to businesses affected by the ban until another docking area can be established outside of the city, most likely near the industrial Port of Marghera.
Last month, cruise ships began to trickle into the Venetian Lagoon for the first time since February 2020, met by thousands of protesters on the waterfront and in small boats on the Giudecca Canal, chanting anti-cruise slogans.
Before the global pandemic, cruise passengers made up about 73 per cent of Venice’s visitors, but only contributed 18 per cent of tourism dollars, according to The New York Times.
The US news outlet also estimates overtourism has contributed to around half of the city’s residents leaving over the past 40 years.
Italian director of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Francesco Galietti, welcomed the news and said it was a positive decision and could mark the beginning of a “new era”.
Galietti said the new docking sites should hopefully be ready by 2022, when the bulk of tourists are expected to return.
In August last year, the Italian government said it was looking at alternative solutions for large cruise ships entering Venice following mass public protests and a cruise ship crashing into the dock at Guidecca Canal.
At the time, Italy’s Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Danilo Toninelli said the country planned to reroute about one-third of the cruise ships booked to visit Venice towards new berths.
“We’ve been talking about big ships for 15 years and nothing has been done. These floating palaces will start to go elsewhere,” Toninelli said.
Featured image source: Twitter/@dariofrance