Large cruise ships will be banned from sailing into the centre of Venice from 1 August, after years of warnings they risk causing irreparable damage to the lagoon city.
The decision was confirmed just days before a meeting of the UN’s cultural organisation UNESCO, which had proposed to add Venice to its list of endangered heritage sites.
Venice was put on UNESCO’s heritage list in 1987 as an “extraordinary architectural masterpiece”.
The second meeting ruled that Venice would be allowed to keep its place on the UNESCO World Heritage List without being identified as endangered. The World Heritage Committee has given Italian authorities until December 2022 to report on their efforts to protect Venice’s ecosystem and cultural heritage.
The city will move to the list of endangered destinations if tourism is not steered in a more sustainable direction.
But some key observers are already complaining that the new rules do not go far enough.
The presence of large, multi-storey cruise liners in and around Venice has been a source of frustration for locals for more than a decade now.
The problem was put on the back burner during the pandemic as the city was free of cruise ships for almost 18 months.
The first post-pandemic cruise ships to trickle into the Venetian Lagoon last month were met by thousands of protesters on the waterfront and in small boats on the Giudecca Canal, chanting anti-cruise slogans.
According to The New York Times, cruise passengers made up about 73 per cent of Venice’s visitors, but only contributed 18 per cent of tourism dollars pre-COVID.
The US news outlet also estimates over tourism has contributed to around half of the city’s residents leaving over the past 40 years.
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.
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.
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”.
Mr Galietti said the new docking sites should hopefully be ready by 2022, when the bulk of tourists are expected to return.
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