Protesters in Venice demand cruise ships are banned from the city

Protesters in Venice demand cruise ships are banned from the city as the first vessel of the season returns after coronavirus lockdown

  • Activists are demanding the ship be rerouted out the fragile lagoon, especially the central Giudecca Canal
  • Angry locals say the enormous vessels pose environmental and safety risks to the canal and the sinking city
  • The ships weigh over 90,000 tons and carry hundreds of thousands of passengers to and from Venice yearly
  • Another protest is also planned for Saturday by pro-cruise activists whose jobs depend on having thousands of visitors flowing through the city that is one of Italy’s top tourist destinations

Protesters in Venice have demanded that cruise ships are banned from the city’s lagoon as the first vessel of the season returned on Saturday after Italy’s coronavirus lockdown.   

Activists are demanding that the ship be rerouted out the fragile lagoon, especially Giudecca Canal through the city’s historic centre, fearing the environmental impact such ships are having on the historic sinking city. 

Angry locals say the enormous vessels – weighing over 90,000 tons and carrying hundreds of thousands of passengers each year – pose environmental and safety risks to the canal and the city. 

Another protest is also planned for Saturday by pro-cruise activists whose jobs depend on having thousands of visitors flowing through the city that is one of Italy’s top tourist destinations.

Activists are demanding that the ship be rerouted out the fragile lagoon, especially Giudecca Canal through the city’s historic centre, fearing the environmental impact such ships are having on the historic sinking metropolis. Pictured: Venice residents hold a protest to demand an end to cruise ships passing through the lagoon city, as the first cruise ship of the summer season departs from the Port of Venice, Italy, June 5, 2021

Angry locals say the enormous vessels – weighing over 90,000 tons and carrying thousands of passengers each – pose environmental and safety risks to the canal and the city. Pictured: Protesters take action during the passage of the Cruise Ship MSC Orchestra on June 05, 2021 in Venice

‘No Big Ships’ activists stage a protest as the MSC Orchestra cruise ship leaves Venice, Italy, Saturday, June 5, 2021. The 92,409-ton, 16-deck MSC Orchestra cruise ship, the first cruise ship leaving Venice since the pandemic is set to depart Saturday amid protests by activists demanding that the enormous ships be permanently rerouted out the fragile lagoon

Venice residents hold a protest to demand an end to cruise ships passing through the lagoon city, as the first cruise ship of the summer season departs from the Port of Venice, Italy, June 5, 2021

Italian Premier Mario Draghi’s government pledged this winter to get cruise ships out of the Venice lagoon, but it will likely take years to reach that goal. 

The government says it is organising bids for a viable alternative outside the lagoon, which should be posted any day now.

Still, even an interim alternative route to the Giudecca Canal won’t be ready until next year, Italy’s Ministry for Infrastructure and Sustainable Mobility told The Associated Press in an email.

‘Meanwhile, in 2022, as a temporary solution, a certain number of ships can dock in Marghera, relieving the traffic through Venice,’ the ministry said.

Marghera, an industrial port west of Venice that is still within the lagoon, will require lengthening existing piers to accommodate larger vessels as well as dredging a canal on the approach, cruise industry officials say. 

Because Marghera is an industrial site, that also means testing the sediment to be dredged for harmful pollutants.

Italian Premier Mario Draghi’s government pledged this winter to get cruise ships out of the Venice lagoon, but it will likely take years to reach that goal. Pictured: Venice residents sit on boats as they protest to demand an end to cruise ships passing through the lagoon city, as the first cruise ship of the summer season departs from the Port of Venice, Italy, June 5, 2021

The government says it is organising bids for a viable alternative outside the lagoon, which should be posted any day now

Activists are demanding that the enormous ships be permanently rerouted out the fragile lagoon, especially Giudecca Canal through. The ship passed two groups of protesters: pro-cruise advocates whose jobs depend on the industry as well as protesters who have been campaigning for years to get cruise ships out of the lagoon 

Venice has become one of the world’s most important cruise destinations over the last two decades, serving as a lucrative turnaround point for 667 cruise ships in 2019. 

In total, these carried nearly 700,000 passengers, according to the cruise industry trade association, Cruise Lines International.

While some cruise companies have experimented with Trieste to the west or Ravenna to the south as drop-off points for those visiting Venice during the pandemic, industry officials say Venice remains a key port of call for cruises in the Adriatic Sea and eastern Mediterranean.

On Thursday, the passage of the MSC Orchestra – a cruise ship 300 meters (about 985 feet) long that towered over Venice with 16 decks – marked the first time a cruise ship had travelled up the Giudecca Canal since January 2020, before the pandemic shut down the industry and locked down Italy.

When the ship sets sail later Saturday, passengers will enjoy a deck-side view of St. Mark’s Square, the Doges Palace and the Bridge of Sighs as they exit the lagoon.

They also will pass protesters who have been campaigning since the 2012 Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster off Tuscany that killed 32 people to get the ships out of Venice’s lagoon.

Pictured: People applaud as the 92,409-ton, 16-deck MSC Orchestra cruise ship departs from Venice, Italy, Saturday, June 5, 2021. The first cruise ship leaving Venice since the pandemic is set to depart Saturday

Protesters take action during the passage of the Cruise Ship MSC Orchestra on June 05, 2021 in Venice, Italy. The Italian government has decided to keep ‘Large ships out of the lagoon’, but while waiting for a solution, which will take years, the large ships are returning to the lagoon as Italy’s tourism industry begins to get back to its feets

Venice has become one of the world’s most important cruise destinations over the last two decades, serving as a lucrative turnaround point for 667 cruise ships in 2019. In total, these carried nearly 700,000 passengers, according to the cruise industry trade association, Cruise Lines International. Pictured: Protesters staging a protest on Saturday in Venice

Concerns about cruise ships were heightened two years ago this week when the MSC Opera struck a dock and a tourist boat, injuring five people, while maneuvering through the Giudecca Canal.

The protests were not the first time locals have demonstrated their displeasure of Venice being used as a destination for the large cruise ships.

In June last year as Italy re-opened after the first wave of the deadly virus, protesters formed a human chain along one of Venice’s most-popular promenades, with the aim of promoting more local business than tourism.

The city sat largely empty for months during Italy’s lockdowns with scenes of empty squares and alleys and gondoliers stranded on dry land. 

Italy reported 57 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday against 73 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections decreased to 2,436 from 2,557.

Italy has registered 126,472 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eight-highest in the world. The country has reported 4.23 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with COVID-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 5,193 on Saturday, down from 5,488 a day earlier.

While some cruise companies have experimented with Trieste to the west or Ravenna to the south as drop-off points for those visiting Venice during the pandemic, industry officials say Venice remains a key port of call for cruises in the Adriatic Sea and eastern Mediterranean. Pictured: A crew member of the MSC Orchestra cruise ship undergoes a swab test as part of health measures applied prior to departure on June 05, 2021 aboard the ship in Venice

Passengers follow a hostess (R) as they go through boarding procedures prior to depart on June 05, 2021 aboard the MSC Orchestra cruise ship from the MSC Terminal in Venice

Currently, some visitors – including those from the UK – are allowed into Venice quarantine-free if they can present a negative PCR or anti-gen test within less than 48 hours upon their arrival. However, Italy is currently on the UK’s amber list, meaning foreign travel the country is not allowed by the government

There were 20 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 22 on Friday. The total number of intensive care patients fell to 788 from a previous 836.

Some 238,632 tests for COVID-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 220,939, the health ministry said.

Since March 8, a number of northern provinces – which were the European epicentre of the virus when it first reached to continent in 2020 – have been under quarantine, including Venice.

This has brought Italy’s number of cases and deaths right down after the third wave, while its vaccination campaign has been largely successful, with over 40 percent of the population being given at least one dose of the vaccine by June 4.  

Currently, some visitors – including those from the UK – are allowed into Venice quarantine-free if they can present a negative PCR or anti-gen test within less than 48 hours upon their arrival, or if they have been vaccinated.

However, Italy is currently on the UK’s amber list, meaning foreign travel the country from the UK is not permitted by the government, and those returning from Italy would be required to quarantine regardless.

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