New plan for a major off-shore port for Venice

08/12/2010

New plan for a major off-shore port for Venice


In The Venice Report (CUP, September 2009), Venice in Peril pointed out the risk to Venice in the plan presented by Paolo Costa, president of the Venice Port Authority, to build a huge commercial port within the lagoon.  The aim of this scheme was to create at Marghera, on the inland shore, a shipping, road and rail hub to handle three times the volume of goods of the existing major port at Trieste. 

For the massive container ships to reach this proposed port, the channel from the Malamocco inlet would have to be deepened and continually dredged.  Solid scientific evidence has shown that the existing channel, dug in the 1960s, has already contributed greatly to the degradation of the lagoon, making it deeper, rougher and more like open sea. It is one reason why the water is now chronically too high in Venice, often above the level of the stone bases of the buildings and lapping against the brickwork. Because of this, the city is rotting "from the feet up" to the extent, for example, that the tesserae are beginning to drop off the mosaics in the entrance of St Mark's.
 
The warning by Venice in Peril about the proposal of the Port Authority received very wide coverage in the media worldwide.
 
Venice in Peril, together with the Coastal Research Unit of Cambridge University, has been working with the lagoon scientists and experts in Venetian buildings in order to explain the scientific evidence for the degradation of the lagoon in a way that lay people can understand. On 28 May 2010 it held a meeting of scientists in Venice  on why the health of the lagoon has important implications for the Venetian heritage.
 
Venetian Port Authority now proposes an offshore facility

In Rome, on 23 September 2010, in the presence of the minister of public works and transport, and the president of the Magistrato alle Acque, Paolo Costa  presented a new project for an offshore, mobile  terminal  to be positioned eight nautical miles, about 14km, out in the Adriatic, where the seabed has a natural depth of 20m. This would be the first offshore port in the Mediterranean. The feasibility study has been commissioned from the UK firm, Halcrow.

A 3.5km outer breakwater will protect the terminal and the ships from severe weather conditions,  so the terminal will also double up as a refuge berth for ships waiting to enter the lagoon when the MOSE barriers  between the Adriatic and lagoon (Venice's anti-flood system) are closed.

Oil tankers and containers ships will dock inside the terminal breakwater. Thanks to a completely automated system, the time needed to transfer containers from ships to barges and vice versa  will be around two minutes per container. The area reserved for the loading and unloading of containers will be capable of handling between 1.5m and 3m TEU per year, and therefore host containerships with a capacity of between 6,000 TEU and 14,000 TEU.
The containers will be transferred to barges with a capacity of 112 TEU (20-foot equivalent unit) or more. These barges will then carry the containers through the Malamocco entry into the lagoon and to the proposed,   new, 90-hectare container terminal at  Porto Marghera (on the sites of the former factories Sindyal and Montefibre), where they will be reorganised to be sent to inland destinations.

Halcrow's project director, Payam Fouroudi explains: "The [containers]  are processed and distributed by rail and road links to the main local routes, as well as to and from markets in central and Eastern Europe. The facility will be able to cater for a capacity of between 1.5m and 3m TEU, and handle ships of between 6,000 and 14,000 TEU."

At the off-shore terminal, there will be two berths for oil tankers,  designed to manage a maximum capacity of 7 million tonnes of crude and receive ships of over 150,000 tonnes, unloading directly into an underwater pipeline linked to refineries in Porto Marghera and Mantua. If this happens, a directive of the 1994 Special Law for Venice, banning oil tankers from the entering the lagoon,  will finally be satisfied.

Costs and timing

The total investment required for the offshore terminal and the port at Marghera is estimated to be some ?1.3bn. Costa asks for the Italian government to pay for the breakwater of the off-shore terminal and the works deriving from  the exclusion of the petrot tankers from the lagoon, while he hopes private investors will cover the rest. He says the off-shore terminal could be working within five years, and the mainland port within four.

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