Venice will stop letting huge cruise ships dock in its historic center

National/World News

People watch from the shore as the Harmony of the Seas cruise ship sets sail from Southampton, southern England, on May 22, 2016. At 120,000-tonnes, and 66 metres (217 feet), Royal Caribbean’s ‘Harmony of the Seas’ is the world’s biggest-ever cruise ship. The widest cruise ship ever built, its 362-metre length makes it 50 metres […]

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Venice is to start rerouting cruise ships away from its historic center, in a victory for residents tired of the enormous vessels towering over the city’s skyline.

Some ships will be redirected to dock at Fusina and Lombardia terminals from next month, Italy’s transport minister said — meaning they will stay on the other side of the Venice lagoon, away from the city’s central islands.

“Starting now, we will decrease the number of liners passing by Giudecca and San Marco, particularly the bigger ones,” Danilo Toninelli, the Italian minister of infrastructure and transport, said at a transport committee hearing on the divisive issue.

“The aim is to reroute about one third of the cruise ships already booked on Venice towards new berths by 2020,”he added. “We’ve been talking about big ships for 15 years and nothing has been done. These floating palaces will start to go elsewhere.”

Toninelli said a public consultation would be held to solve the problem of cruise ships in the longer term, with other terminals including Chioggia, at the mouth of the lagoon, under consideration for use.

The announcement follows protests in the city over the proliferation of huge cruise liners, which flood Venice’s canals and waterways with thousands of tourists each day. Concerns have long been held over overtourism in the city and the aesthetic impact of the vessels.

From April to October, an estimated 32,000 cruise ship passengers disembark in Venice daily, according to the Port Authority. In August, an additional 465,100 day-trippers make their way to the city, adding to the chaos of an additional 2.2 million tourists who stay overnight, according to recent National Tourism Agency figures.

Safety issues have also been raised — particularly after the cruise ship MSC Opera crashed into a Venice dock in June, hitting a moored tourist boat and sending onlookers running for safety.

And the vessels take an environmental toll on the sinking city, with critics saying their waves erode the foundations of its centuries-old buildings.

The move is not the only effort Venice has made to curb its tourism problem.

In September, a new measure requiring day-trippers to pay an entrance fee into the city of up to $11 (€10) will come into effect. Tourists staying overnight will be exempt as a city tax is already included in the hotel rate.

Nonetheless, short visits continue to put a strain on the city’s overstretched infrastructure, and cheap Airbnb rentals have driven up the cost of accommodation and living conditions for locals, some of whom have decided to leave altogether.

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