They’ve been protesting in Venice again, and as before it’s about the number and size of the ships that call there these days. This weekend has been the busiest of the year with around 40,000 passengers from Friday to Sunday, with today (Saturday) seeing the highest figure – something around 18,500 passengers. The protests involved members of the ‘No Grandi Navi’ pressure group going for a swim along the Giudecca canal, thus closing it (for safety purposes) to navigation. Here’s a link to an Italian-language news page about it. (Here’s a link to Google-translated version of the same page, which is a hoot, but never mind – you can get the gist, I think.)
The problem is complex: compared with just 15 years ago, there are far more calls by far more ships, each of which is much, much bigger than before. MSC Divina seems to be attracting especial ire, which is a shame as in fact she’s Italian (well sort-of – she’s actually registered in Panama), and is home-ported in Venice during the summer season. It’s alleged that the passage of very big ships along the Giudecca canal causes erosion of the banks and buildings on each side, but there doesn’t seem to be any agreement about that. What is agreed is that the ships themselves are dramatically out of scale with the environment they’re transiting through. I have to say that I would agree with that – looking down on St Marks Cathedral or the Palazzo Ducale can’t be right (see the image above). And of course the result of the ships’ size is that they bring many more people into Venice than used to be the case, and (it is argued by some) more people than the city can handle. On the other hand of course, Venice fundamentally makes its money from tourism and the ships bring tourists. For this ships homeported in Venice, the ships bring other jobs, in administration, supply, logistics and so on.
But what to do? Well, there are two proposals on the table: a) make the ships dock at the container port of Maghera on the mainland, or b) alter the route into the existing cruise port. There are problems with both of these solutions. Docking at Maghera would result in having to move all those passengers into the city on coaches and then back again at the end of the day, and I feel sure that the pollution consequences of all those extra coaches wouldn’t be good. Altering the route into the existing cruise port sounds good, but will cost a lot of money – I’ve read figures of €30m to €40m mentioned, perhaps even more, for the required dredging work. At the moment that’s money that the Italian authorities simply don’t have.
My feeling is that the solution, insofar as there is one, will have to be two-fold: a) move those ships starting and finishing cruises at Venice to Maghera. There are usually four, six or even more such ships every weekend during the summer season, and I would have thought that getting passengers and ship’s supplies to Maghera would actually be easier than into the current cruise port; and b) find the money to create the new channel for ships doing in-cruise calls at Venice. We all want to continue visiting Venice on our cruises and if changes such as the ones I’ve suggested above are the way to do so, then let’s make them.
By the way, this weekend’s calls seem to be from the following ships:-
Friday: Norwegian Spirit (overnight), Legend of the Seas, Crystal Serenity, Ruby Princess (for two nights), MSC Armonia – total port load 10,315;
Saturday: Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Spirit (until lunchtime?), Queen Victoria, Splendor of the Seas, MSC Divina, and Ruby Princess – total port load 18,669;
Sunday: MSC Fantasia, Queen Elizabeth, Costa Fascinosa, and Ruby Princess – total port load 12,811.
That’s a total of 41,775 passengers, assuming all the ships are full but no third/fourth passengers per cabin.