SOAVE, Italy (AP) – Early risers in Venice were surprised on Thursday to see a cruise ship nose down the Giudecca Canal for the first time since the start of the pandemic, despite repeated promises by the government to re-route these huge ships due to safety and environmental concerns.
The 92,409-ton MSC Orchestra crossed the basin in front of the St. Mark’s Canal around 6 a.m. under escort by a tugboat and port authorities, before the first post-pandemic cruise ship departure from Venice, scheduled for Saturday.
His arrival comes two years and a day after the MSC Opera struck a dock and a tourist riverboat in the same canal, an event that highlighted safety concerns among anti-cruise ship activists.
Protests are mounting against the revival of cruise ship traffic, barely two and a half months after the Italian Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, vowed to permanently stop the passage of large ships through the heart of the city. They include an open letter from the nonprofit Venice Heritage, signed by celebrities including musician Mick Jagger, actress Tilda Swinton, filmmaker Wes Anderson and director Francis Ford Coppola.
“Venice is suffering and we, citizens of the world, cannot remain deaf to its cries,” reads the open letter to Italian officials, including Prime Minister Mario Draghi, members of his cabinet, the mayor of Venice and the governor of Veneto.
“This fragile entity, (a) World Heritage Site, cannot survive without our help,” the letter adds.
The signatories have defined 10 priorities for the city, including stopping the passage of huge ships in Venice and better management of mass tourism.
The Italian government passed a law in March to permanently block cruise ship traffic through Venice.
Italy’s Ministry of Infrastructure and Sustainable Mobility told The Associated Press that a bidding process would open “any day now” for “ideas to identify better and structural solutions to create a new mooring area for large ships outside the Venetian lagoon ”.
The new terminal would be used for both cruise ships and container ships, the ministry said in an email.
“In the meantime, in 2022, as a temporary solution, a number of ships will be able to dock in Marghera, thus facilitating transit through Venice,” the ministry said.
Cruise industry officials told the AP that Marghera, an industrial port in the Venice Lagoon, currently does not have suitable facilities to serve as a passenger terminal.
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