Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Concordia Disaster Rekindles Venice Restrictions

Seabourn Spirit Docked in Venice, Italy
Could Concordia Disaster Impact Cruises to Venice

UNESCO has called on the Italian government to restrict access of large cruise ships to culturally and ecologically important areas, particularly Venice and its Lagoon which are visited by some 300 large cruise ships a year.


Arriving in Venice on Star Princess
Docked Next to RCCL Voyager of the Seas

UNESCO World Heritage Site - Venice
In a letter sent to the Italian Environment Minister on behalf of Director-General Irina Bokova, the Assistant Director-General for Culture Francesco Bandarin writes that “the tragic accident [of the Costa Concordia on 13 January] reinforces longstanding concern over the risk that large cruise liners pose to sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, particularly the Venice Lagoon and the Basin of San Marco." 

After presenting UNESCO’s condolences for the tragic loss of life caused by Costa Concordia accident and praising the efforts of the rescue teams and local population in dealing with the disaster, the letter urges the government to act quickly to develop alternative plans for maritime traffic around the World Heritage site of Venice. 

UNESCO contends that the cruise liner traffic in Venice is particularly damaging because of the fragile structure of the city. The ships cause water tides that erode the foundations of buildings. They contribute to pollution and impact the cityscape as they dwarf monuments in the heart of the city.

Venice Canals from Star Princess Deck
 Sailing into Venice

Those that follow our blog on a regular basis know that we were on Star Princess last May/June for a 12 Night Greek Isles & Mediterranean Cruise - Rome to Venice. Our captain urged us to be up on the outside decks before 7 AM to see the ship entering into Venice harbor.   It was an amazing sight - seeing Venice from a different perspective.

View our photo album on our Facebook Fan Page:
Arriving in Venice by Cruise Ship
As you can see from these images, the pier where we were docked was far from the heart of the city. In fact, one must take a water taxi or use the people mover to get into the city proper.

What Does the Future Hold

UNESCO's plea is not a new one, but it seems to have some new life as Italy's environment minister, Corrado Clini, appeared to take up the cause Tuesday.

"The aim is to free St. Mark's basin from the big ships once new canals have been dug," Clini was quoted by the Italian news agency ANSA as saying during a public appearance in northern Italy.

But Clini added that "in the meantime, it will be up to the port authority and to the city to decide which (sea) traffic is sustainable and compatible" with Venice's particular situation."

Venice officials have said that since tug boats guide the big cruise ships through the part of the lagoon weaving through the city, the risk of accidents is virtually eliminated.

In a city where "cars" are replaced by gondolas and small water craft, it is unthinkable that there could be a ban on larger vessels.   Let us hope that the cruise industry, UNESCO, and Italian authorities can work out a plan which protects Venice for years to come and still allows future generations the pleasure of seeing this amazing city of canals from the perspective of a cruise ship.

If a Mediterranean cruise, that includes Venice, is on your bucket list, you might want to plan that trip now in case restrictions are indeed put in place in the near future.

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