Italy May Reduce Cruise Ship Traffic in Venice's Historic Core

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By The Maritime Executive 08-09-2019 11:34:51

After the collision between the cruise ship MSC Opera and a tour boat in Venice this June, Italy's government may move to reroute some of the largest passenger vessels away from the historic and potentially vulnerable Guidecca Canal.

According to Minister of Transport Danilo Toninelli, a government working group is examining ways to reduce risk from cruise ship movements in Venice's city center. The group is considering a plan that could send one third of the cruise ships that call Venice to alternative ports, like the mainland Lombardia and Fusina cruise terminals. The process could begin as early as next month, he said.  

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) emphasized that no final decision has yet been made, contrary to early reports in the mainstream media.

"We are still in agreement with the solution developed by Comitatone in 2017 to utilize the Vittorio Emanuele Canal as the best and most prudent means to move larger cruise ships away from the Giudecca,” said Tom Boardley, Secretary General of Cruise Lines International Association Europe. “CLIA cruise line members welcome and will support the urgent implementation of this solution.”

CLIA's preferred alternative would see cruise ships use commercial shipping channels to the south and east of Venice, then loop back through the Vittorio Emanuele Canal to reach the Stazione Marittima terminal, skipping the transit through Venice's core (above). This plan has already been negotiated and agreed by Italian government agencies and by the cruise industry. However, it would require dredging the Vittorio Emanuele Canal to give enough depth for larger vessels, and this would require an environmental review.  

Historic preservation advocates have long called for a ban on large cruise ships in the Giudecca Canal. The activists cite studies showing that the passage of large vessels could accelerate erosion of the seabed in the area, further destabilizing the fragile firmament upon which the historic city rests. They are also opposed to the ships' exhaust, the potential risk of a marine casualty, and the large numbers of tourists which disembark from the ships in the city's core. 

Two run-ins on the canal

Toninelli's comments were made in the context of two recent incidents involving cruise ships on the Giudeccal Canal. 

On June 2, the cruise ship MSC Opera hit a dock and a tourist boat at the San Basilio Pier on the canal, injuring four people. The 2,600-passenger ship hit the river boat River Countess, which was moored at the pier and had 130 people on board. An investigation into the cause of the casualty continues. 

#2giugno 11:00, proseguono le verifiche dei #vigilidelfuoco dopo l’incidente alla nave da crociera sul Molo San Basilio a #Venezia pic.twitter.com/7rJfdbPD0R

— Vigili del Fuoco (@emergenzavvf) June 2, 2019

Separately, on July 7, the cruise ship Costa Deliziosa was passing through the Giudecca Canal during a severe storm, and she had a near-miss encounter with a pier and a moored superyacht during the transit. Heavy rain, hail, lightning and gusts of wind are apparent from bystander footage. 

A spokesperson for operator Costa Cruises emphasized that "the commander has always maintained control of the ship even in conditions of extreme and sudden difficulty." Costa said that the Costa Deliziosa's "detour" was caused by "violent gusts," part of a "violent, extraordinary and sudden meteorological event."