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Venice protests against huge cruise ships

June 8, 2019

After a 275-meter cruise ship crashed into a tourist boat, Venice residents have demanded that the giant vessels stay away. The issue of cruise liners sailing Venice's Giudecca Canal has long been a point of tension.

The MSC Opera cruise ship moored in Venice, Italy
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/L. Bruno

Around 5,000 residents of the northern Italian city of Venice on Saturday protested against the presence of cruise ships in the busy Giudecca Canal, following a ship accident earlier in the week.

Many of the demonstrators carried banners with slogans such as "Keep large boats out of the lagoon."

Critics say the waves the ships create are eroding the foundations of the historic lagoon city, which regularly floods, leaving iconic sites such as Saint Mark's Square underwater.

Last Sunday, the 65,500-ton Opera, a 54-meter high and 275-meter long liner, was approaching a passenger terminal on the Giudecca Canal when it hit the dock and a nearby ferry after a technical problem.

Footage of the incident showed passengers who had been waiting at a wharf in San Basilio-Zattere fleeing for safety as the huge ship, its horns blaring, crashed into the much smaller, moored "River Countess," which had 110 people on board.

Several tourists were slightly injured in the accident at San Basilio-Zattere, port authorities said.

In response to the incident, Italy's Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said the government would come up with a "definitive solution" by the end of June.

An ongoing saga

Italy's government had previously promised to deal with the cruise ship problem. 

In 2013, it banned ships weighing more than 96,000 tons from the Giudecca Canal.

The ban was in part a response to the deadly 2012 Costa Concordia disaster, in which the 115,000-ton cruise ship hit a rock formation off the island of Giglio in Tuscany after its captain sailed too close to the shore.

However, that law was later overturned by a regional court, which ruled that safety or environmental risks had not been proven.

Two years ago, the government announced that larger ships would be diverted from the historic center but failed to follow through on that promise.

Venice's battle against cruise ships

mm, law/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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