They said it couldn’t happen. The cruise ships were too big to fail. Escorted by tugs at the bow and stern, traveling at 6 knots, the ships were “safe” to traverse the San Marco basin and the Giudecca canal. And then it did happen, on June 2, when a cruise ship lost control and rammed into the quay. They said that a third tugboat would solve the problem; two at the bow and one at the stern. This extra tug would prevent any more mishaps. However this also was a fantasy. On July 7, a cruise ship took off in a storm with three tugboats guiding it, veered off course and narrowly missed the fondamenta in front of the Giardini.
The ships are not too big to fail, they are simply too big. Along with severe air pollution damaging to people and monuments, noise pollution (a cruise ship never sleeps), and erosion of the lagoon mudflats and sediment loss––cruise ship vibrations and wave motion are abrasive to the ancient building foundations. Even if the ships did not physically contaminate the fragile environment of Venice, there is the issue of monstrous visual pollution, which cannot be denied by any scientific, geological, or academic expert.
Photographer Gianni Berengo Gardin understands the visual pollution innately. This is why his 2015 exhibit, “Venezia e le Grandi Navi” struck an international nerve and became the catalyst for public out cry. Berengo Gardin allowed the world to bear witness to these catastrophic invaders. Venice’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro understands it too, and that’s why he unsuccessfully tried to suppress the photographs.
The cruise ships have become emblematic of all that is wrong with Venice. The absurd continuation of their surreal presence in the heart of Venice is testament to the complete disregard the mayor has for Venice, her residents and also her tourists.
I am a foresta. I represent the tourist “type” Venice ostensibly wants to attract. There are millions of people just like me and we are observing the painful destruction of a city that we love. The cruise ships account for less than 10% of annual tourists to Venice but they claim 100% of our attention. Their presence is so deeply antithetical to everything Venice represents, that we have to wonder if the obliteration of Venice is not the by-product of poor governance but the actual goal.
After the near-miss incident on July 7, Pino Musolino, President of the North Adriatic Sea Port Authority, tweeted that he would need to “…evaluate and solicit the adoption of other measures to guarantee full security to the city.” Mother nature is capricious. The climate crisis has taught us that we can no longer be dependent on historical weather patterns. Tug lines break. Decisions are made which prioritize profits over people. If one professes to want to achieve “full security” for Venice there is only one solution. The cruise ships must be banned from the San Marco basin and the Giudecca canal.
The critical issues of overtourism in Venice cannot be solved with a hashtag. They cannot be solved with turnstiles or automatic people counters. They can’t even be solved with fines for bicycles and bare chests. Removing the cruise ships, the most blatant symbols of greed and destruction would at least be a start. Because Venice is too miraculous to fail.
How you can help to ban the cruise ships from Venice:
DONATE to Comitato NoGrandiNavi to support their vital work. They are on the front lines of this battle.
LEARN the facts about the historical importance of the Lagoon and why cruise ships should be nowhere near Venice from Iris Loredana.