Big ships banned from Venice St Mark's basin

Giant cruise liners blamed for endangering fragile buildings

(ANSA) - Rome, August 8 - Veneto Governor Luca Zaia on Friday said ships above 40,000 tonnes will be banned from Saint Mark's basin and the Giudecca Canal in Venice.
    It was a "unanimous decision" by an interministerial committee to save Venice and its lagoon, the governor tweeted.
    In addition to the risk of collision, cruise ships have long been blamed for blowing corrosive smog onto Venice's medieval buildings, whose fragile foundations are weakened by the massive vibrations big liners put off.
    Other experts warn that the thousand-year-old wooden piles that prop up the city underwater would crumble like toothpicks under the weight of a 114,500-ton cruise ship like the Costa Concordia.
    In addition, liners ushering tourists into the heart of the city disrupt the extremely fragile foundation of Venice and its medieval monuments by displacing massive amounts of water in the shallow lagoon, while environmentalists warn that the lagoon surrounding Venice, itself a UNESCO heritage site, is at great risk due to its fragile ecosystem.
    Over 650 cruise ships currently pass through the city annually. Last November the government of ex-premier Enrico Letta ordered a halt to large cruise ships passing through the Venice lagoon, effective from November 2014, and a limit on smaller cruise vessels effective in January.
    The regulation came in response to the crash of the Costa Concordia cruise ship in early 2012, which killed 32 people off the coast of Tuscany. However a regional court suspended the ban in Venice, where the cruise industry is key to the local economy, prompting Italy's leading environmental group Legambiente to accuse the court of recklessness. Similar regulations had been imposed earlier throughout the rest of Italy, where the cruise industry plays a smaller role in the local economy. In April this year, cruise lines vowed their biggest ships would give Venice a wide berth from November 30 after the long-running row about their effect on the delicate lagoon city.
    The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) made the vow after a meeting with Italian culture, environment and transport ministers.