Wandering the narrow streets and canal-side paths of Venice, I spotted a few cries of “No Grandi Navi” amongst the colourful graffiti, plus a few murals of hefty ships.
I have to admit, however, that I hadn’t appreciated quite what this meant until on an early morning stroll, this monster crossed along the bottom of a canal, dwarfing everything around.
I knew that there was concern that the swell created by Venice’s water traffic threatens increasing damage to the already precarious foundations of the city’s beautiful but delicate buildings.
The waterways and boats are at the heart of Venice; it’s how people get to work, how they transport their goods, how they move house, how they deliver laundry, how they collect rubbish. The small boats and water buses are vital to Venice; they can’t be removed but there are already sensible and strict speed limits for them to prevent further damage to the buildings along the canals.
And yet, cruise liners the length of St Mark’s Square, are still allowed to do this:
In fact, I then discovered that a law had been passed in November 2013 to at least reduce the number of large liners allowed to pass from the Adriatic through the Lagoon, and stricter rulings were planned for 2015, with a complete ban of all liners over 96,000 tons. To give some idea of just what that means, the Equinox pictured above has a tonnage of 122,000.
I’ll just leave you with some words from the culture and tourism minister, Dario Franceschini, who said it was “unimaginable that such giants should be allowed to pass right in front of St Mark’s Square. Nobody with an ounce of common sense can understand it.”
As of January 2015, the initial ban has been lifted under appeal and we now wait to see the impact. Cruise lines have already made their schedules for 2015 so there will likely be no immediate increase in the dreaded grandi navi. There are plans to build a new access route to the cruise terminal, but now that the ban has been lifted that work may not go ahead.
Updated January 2015
Continued pressure from the No Grandi Navi group resulted in a referendum in June 2017, in which almost 99% of the 18,000 Venetians who voted supported a total ban of cruise ships.
New rules were introduced in November 2017, under which ships weighing 100,000 tonnes or more will take a less glamorous and more circuitous route to the industrial port of Marghera, away from St Mark’s Square and the Grand Canal. However, the work to enable this is not planned to finish until 2021/2022. Many do not believe it is achievable in the timeframe.
Updated January 2018