Protests in Venice as cruise ships make post-Covid return

Hundreds of people demonstrate against arrival of giant liners

Activists of the committee 'No Grandi Navi' (No big ships) protest against the MSC Orchestra cruise liner after it was allowed in Venice's historic lagoon. EPA.
Activists of the committee 'No Grandi Navi' (No big ships) protest against the MSC Orchestra cruise liner after it was allowed in Venice's historic lagoon. EPA.

The first cruise ship to leave Venice since coronavirus restrictions were eased set sail on Saturday, but some local residents protested over the return to normal, unhappy about the passage of giant liners through the historic lagoon city.

Hundreds of people rallied on land and small boats fluttering flags saying "No big ships" surrounded and followed the 92,000-tonne MSC Orchestra as it departed Venice port en route for Croatia and Greece.

"We are here because we are against this passage but also against a model of tourism that is destroying the city, pushing out residents, destroying the planet, the cities, and polluting," said Marta Sottoriva, a 29-year old teacher and Venice resident.

But port authorities, workers and the city government welcomed the departure of the Orchestra, operated by MSC Cruises, seeing it as a symbol of business kicking off after the health crisis that hit hard at the cruise industry and the wider travel sector.

"We are happy to be back... to restart the engines. We care a lot about Venice and we've been asking for a stable and manageable solution for ships for many years," said Francesco Galietti, national director for the trade group Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

Some residents have been urging governments for years to ban large cruise ships and other big vessels from passing through the lagoon and docking not far from the famed St. Mark's Square.

Campaigners worry about safety and the environment, including pollution and underwater erosion in a city already in peril from rising sea waters.

"The struggle is very long, I think we are against very big financial interests," Marco Baravalle, a 42-year old researcher, and member of the No Grandi Navi (No big ships) group.

He and other protesters were worried that "everything will go back to what we had before the pandemic", he added.

Italy's government ruled in April that cruise ships and container vessels must not enter Venice's historic centre but rather dock elsewhere.

But the ban will not take effect until terminals outside the lagoon have been completed, and a tender for their construction has not been launched yet.

Part of the traffic might be diverted to the nearby port of Marghera starting from next year.

Published: June 5, 2021 10:27 PM

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