On Saturday 5th June the first cruise ship for 17 months passed in front of the historic center of Venice. The passage of the so-called large ships had been stopped since January 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic began. The MSC Orchestra set sail from the Maritime Station with about a thousand passengers on board, passing through the Giudecca canal, then into the San Marco basin and finally left the lagoon passing through the Lido inlet, with destination Greece.
The ship was accompanied along its route by several boats of the movement opposed to the passage of large ships in the center of Venice, which expressed their dissent with flags and megaphones. Protesters particularly criticized the fact that although the government had promised the removal of large ships from Venice and the Parliament passed a law on the matter, the situation remained the same as before. The MSC Orchestra is expected to return to Venice every Saturday, and in the coming months two other cruise ships will pass through Venice, the MSC Magnifica and the Costa Deliziosa.
The passage of large ships in Venice has long been contested for its environmental impact: it was initially limited in 2012 by the Clini-Passera decree, which however remained incomplete. The decree in fact prohibited the transit of passenger ships of over 40 thousand tons in the Giudecca canal, but only in the presence of valid alternatives, which were not prepared.
In 2014, the Interministerial Committee again blocked access to ships of over 40 thousand tons, but the TAR canceled the provision. Until last year, cruise ships – albeit weighing no more than 96 thousand tons – therefore continued to pass through the Giudecca canal, sometimes causing accidents, such as that of the “Opera” ship.
On 12 May the Chamber of Deputies had definitively approved at second reading the conversion into law of a decree for the removal of large ships from the historic center of Venice. The decree provided that the Port System Authority of the Northern Adriatic Sea, which also manages the Venice lagoon, had time until May 31 “to launch” a competition of ideas “to develop proposals for mooring points outside the protected waters of the Venice lagoon.
The government had earmarked 2.2 million for the project, but the competition has not yet been published. Lino De Blasio, who on 3 June was elected new president of the Port Authority, explained the delay by saying that the competition is “a new procedure, the aspects of which we must understand well and for now there has not been materially the possibility “.
On March 25, before the approval of the decree, the ministers of ecological transition, culture, tourism, infrastructure and sustainable mobility, had agreed to temporarily divert the traffic of large ships from Venice to Marghera. In the government decree, however, no mention is made of the temporary hijacking of ships, but only the concurrence of ideas for the construction of mooring points outside the protected waters. Furthermore, the decree does not specify by when these mooring points are to be built.
The temporary landing in Marghera should have taken place in two terminals specialized in the management of container traffic, Vecon and TIV. At the moment, however, the terminals do not have the facilities suitable for hosting cruise ships and months of work are needed to make them usable for passengers.
One problem concerns the security protocols for the coronavirus emergency (for example, swabs for passengers embarking) for which the Venice Maritime Station is equipped, while the port of Marghera is not. The construction of a new terminal in Marghera is planned, which will cost around 41 million euros, capable of hosting cruise ships: at the moment, however, it is not known when it will be ready, and the most optimistic estimates speak of 2022.