Cruise ships could be shut out of Venice over erosion fears
13 December 2011, The Daily Telegraph
By Nick Squires in Rome
As the sight of gleaming white passenger ships dwarfing the palaces and churches of the World Heritage-listed city becomes ever more common, there are growing calls for restrictions on where they are allowed to dock. Giorgio Orsoni, the mayor of Venice, is to meet the head of the city's port authority, Paolo Costa, on Wednesday to discuss the problem.
"The problem of these juggernauts of the sea needs to be confronted," he told Corriere della Sera newspaper.
He said cruise ships could be transferred to Porto Marghera, on the mainland, in order to minimise their environmental and aesthetic impact on Venice.
The proposal has the backing of Corrado Clini, Italy's new environment minister, who is a member of the recently-installed technocrat government led by Prime Minister Mario Monti. Environmentalists and heritage groups have long pointed out that as cruise ships plough through the shallow Venetian lagoon, their powerful wake and undertow damages the fragile canal banks, wooden piles and mud banks on which the city rests.
There has been a huge increase in the number of cruise ships visiting 'La Serenissima', as Venice is known, from 200 in 2000 to 510 in 2007.
Last year 1.6 million tourists arrived in Venice by cruise ship, a more than fourfold increase since 1997. Venice's cruise ship terminal was the 10th busiest in Europe but is now the fourth most popular. The biggest ships can be nearly 1,000ft long and 16 decks tall, capable of carrying almost 4,000 passengers. Arrigo Cipriani, the owner of the famous Harry's Bar on the Grand Canal, said he would like to see every cruise ship passenger charged 50 euros (£42) to set foot in Venice.
"If these people are prepared to pay 1,500 euros for a holiday, what's another 50 euros for a day trip to Venice?" he said.