Italy Formalizes Ban on Large Ships Docking in Venice

Italy bans large ships from Venice
Cruise ship sailing through the center of Venice (MSC)

Published Apr 1, 2021 6:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Italian government is moving forward with its efforts to take advantage of the current pause in the cruise operations to enforce a permanent ban on large cruise ships from docking at the historic city of Venice. Previous efforts at restricting cruise ships from the Venice lagoon have not been successful despite complaints that the large cruise ships are contributing to the environmental issues confronting the city.

“Anyone who has passed through Venice in recent years, an Italian citizen or a citizen of the world, has been shocked to see these ships hundreds of meters long, as high as condominiums, passing in such fragile places as the Giudecca Canal or in front of San Marco,” said Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini. “This is why yesterday's decision by the Council of Ministers to plan and build the final landing of ships outside the Lagoon is very important.”

Last week, Italy’s ministers for the environment, culture, tourism, and infrastructure agreed to a plan that called for temporarily diverting cruise ships to the industrial port of Marghera located about 10 miles away from Venice on the mainland. The ministers called it a temporary measure while they could work with the industry to come up with a long-term solution.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi took up the cause and on March 31, put a proposal before Italy’s Council of Ministers to formally adopt the plan to divert ships and create an alternative docking facility. The decree approved by the council formalizes the ban on large cruise ships, as well as container and other large commercial ships, from entering the lagoon. They will be required to divert to Marghera. The second portion of the decree calls for public consultations and working with the industry and ministries to create a permanent solution. Ships larger than 40,000 gross tons would dock at the new terminal which would be outside the lagoon and not require a passage through the famed canals.

Citing the increasing damage from floodwaters and air pollution, UNESCO, which has designated Venice a World Heritage City, has long been calling for the Italian authorities to take actions to protect the city from the dangers of the large ships.



In a Tweet after the council vote, Minister Franceschini called it “a just decision that has been awaited for years.” He announced the agreement to establish a new landing facility saying that Italy was responding to the appeals from UNESCO.

Always a popular tourist destination, in recent years Venice has seen further growth with many of the estimated 25 million visitors to the city each year coming from the cruise ships. In 2013, the government announced a ban on ships over 96,000 gross tons, only to have it later stuck down by the Italian courts. The government later tried to require ships to divert to the industrial port but most large cruise ships continued to dock in Venice if possible. The 2019 accident in which an MSC cruise ship lost control and struck a river cruise ship and the dock renewed calls to move forward with the cruise ship ban.

Venice was not among the ports to begin receiving cruise ships when the industry restored service starting last summer. The government hopes to take advantage of the current pause to explore the long-term solution for the hotly contested docking rights for cruise ships.