Early risers at Venice were surprised Thursday to see that a cruise boat nosing down the Giudecca canal for the first time since the start of the pandemic, despite repeated government pledges to reroute such enormous vessels because of safety and ecological concerns.
The 92,409-ton MSC Orchestra passed through the basin in front of St. Mark’s Canal around 6 a.m. beneath tugboat and port jurisdiction escort, ahead of their first post-pandemic cruise boat death from Venice, scheduled for Saturday.
Its arrival comes two years and a day after the MSC Opera struck a dock and a tourist lake ship in the exact same canal, an event that underlined security concerns one of anti-cruise ship campaigners.
Protests are amping up against the renewal of railroad traffic, just 2 1/2 months after Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini, vowed a definitive stop to the passage of big ships through the heart of the city.
“Venice is suffering, and we, citizens of the world, can’t remain deaf to her cries,″ read the open letter — addressed to Italian officials such as Premier Mario Draghi, members of the Cabinet, the Venice mayor and the Veneto governor.
The signatories laid out 10 priorities to the city, including a halt to the passage of enormous ships throughout Venice and a better direction of mass tourism, which observed 25 million tourists visit the city in 2019, prior to the pandemic closed down global tourism.
The Italian government in March passed a decree aimed at definitively blocking cruise ship traffic through Venice, leaving many with the mistaken impression that the ban was already in effect.
JC Viens was coming at St. Marks’ Square about 6 a.m. for an on-location radio broadcast when he looked up to observe an odd flurry of smaller boats with flashing lights passing through St. Mark’s Basin. The square was almost empty, except a couple tourists snapping photographs of the Doge’s Palace since the sun rose behind it.
“Then I watched this boat moving very slowly. It was really surprising. I believed cruise ships weren’t permitted any more in the tube,” said Viens, a Canadian communications manager who became aware of the controversy over the ships while living in Venice for the second half of 2020 when the fall in tourism decreased even regular canal traffic.
Recalling the autumn along with the new round of virus restrictions, he stated”It was quite eerie to see the city so silent, and to experience the Giudecca canal with no such vessels. It was remarkable to observe that the peacefulness.”
Following the virus pause, many Venetians aren’t happy to see cruise ships return for the first time since January 2020. The No Big Ships Committee is planning to see the Costa Orchestra passengers away with a noisy demonstration on Saturday.
The conflict over cruise ships in Venice took focus after the Costa Concordia sank off Tuscany in 2012, killing 32 passengers and crew members. After an initial ban on ships within 40,000 tons in Venice, the business and authorities reached a voluntary agreement enabling vessels with reduced sulfur fuel amounts to traverse the lagoon.
But the underlying point of contention on having cruise ships in the lagoon in any way, as both a safety and environmental hazard, still has not been addressed, even though years of studies and suggestions.
Cruise industry officials say the present government appears the most focused on resolving the matter once and for all.
Italy’s Infrastructure and Sustainable Mobility Ministry told The Associated Press that a bidding process would open”any day now” to get”ideas aimed at identifying structural and better solutions to realize a new docking area for big ships out the Venice lagoon.”
The new terminal would be used both for cruise and container ships, the ministry said in an email.
“Meanwhile, in 2022, as a temporary solution a certain number of ships will have the ability to dock in Marghera, easing transit on Venice,” the ministry stated.
Cruise industry officials have told the AP that Marghera, a commercial port within the Venice lagoon, currently does not have suitable facilities to function as a passenger terminal. In addition, for it to become even a temporary solution for larger ships, the current docks would have to be extended and a station would need to be dredged.
Jane da Mosto, executive manager of the non-governmental firm We’re Here Venice, called on the authorities to deliver stronger signals, and return to the 40,000-ton limit.
“I can understand it taking time to figure out a solution, but why not just have smaller ships come in?” Da Mosto explained. “It is days like today that, as Venetian taxpayers, we want to hear someone formally recognize that what is occurring shouldn’t be happening, and they are really hoping to clear this up.”