Costa Concordia Disaster: Venice's dilemma


Costa Concordia Disaster: Venice's dilemma

By David Willey BBC News, Rome
18 January 2012

Postwar Italian governments have had to deal with many natural and man-made disasters in their time - including the Alpine dam landslide and overflow at Vajont in 1963 (2,000 dead), earthquakes near Naples in 1980 (nearly 3,000 dead), and L'Aquila in 2009 (over 300 dead), not to mention the sinking of the Italian transatlantic ocean liner Andrea Doria in fog off Nantucket Island in 1956 (46 dead). Read more >>

Venice's dilemma

A committee of MPs from the upper house of the Italian parliament charged with overseeing environmental problems travelled to Venice earlier this week, where they heard a heartfelt plea from Venice's Mayor, Giorgio Orsini, to ban all cruise ships from visiting the lagoon city in future because of the incalculable environmental damage which might be caused by a similar accident to that which befell the Concordia.

The Costa Concordia disaster has raised fears in Venice about cruise ships visiting the lagoon city

Dozens of these gigantic floating hotels belching CO2 and sulphur from their smokestacks regularly pass within 150 metres of Saint Mark's Square, in order to give cruise tourists an exclusive bird's eye panoramic view of the historic city.

They have to wait for high tide to clear the navigation channels dredged inside the lagoon to accommodate big ships. And they are towed by tugs, their engines idling, not under their own power, just like aircraft leaving airport departure gates, to prevent their propellers churning up mud at the bottom of the lagoon.

But according to Renata Codello, the superintendent or Culture Ministry official in charge of conserving the unique architecture and landscape of Venice, the danger of an environmental disaster is minimal. There are no rocks underwater near Saint Mark's Square, just mud, she points out.

However one cruise ship, the Mona Lisa, did run aground on a mudbank near Saint Mark's in 2004 and had to be towed off by tugs.

The floating entertainment city cruise ships, some of which now tower up 10 stories above the water, bring valuable trade to Venice and one thing the city fathers do not want to do at this moment of economic crisis is to scare tour operators and tourists away.

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