January 12, 2015
(9:49 a.m. EST) -- The ban restricting large ships from passing through the centre of Venice has been scrapped.
Venice's regional court of appeal (Tribunale Amministrativo Regionale) threw out the limit imposed in November 2014 for large cruise ships over 96,000 gross tons -- which roughly equates to 2,260 passengers -- to sail along the Giudecca Canal and St Mark's basin to the city's main cruise terminal. The ban also limits the number of ships of 40,000 tons or more to five per day.
The Italian Transport Ministry stated it will appeal the decision to the Council of State, according to Italian publication, Il Friuli Venezia Giulia.
UNESCO's president of the Italian National Commission, Giovanni Puglisi, said that he was appalled by the decision, claiming that the public interest should take precedent over cruise ships.
The move will not immediately affect the larger ships (cruise lines plan itineraries years in advance). There is now added pressure for an alternative route to Venice to be built. The one suggested is Contorta-Sant'Angelo canal, which is a proposed excavation from port Marghera to Venice. The environmental impact assessment for this proposed new route will be released in March.
The restriction was put in place to prevent damage to the fragile buildings and environment in Venice and has caused significant controversy. Environmental groups have been protesting against the large ships for a number of years, while ports and cruise industry employees have been arguing that the ships bring in millions of euros to the Venice economy.
Large cruise ships are classified as 96,000 gross tons and over, which roughly equates to Costa Cruises' Vista Class carrying 2,260 passengers. Small cruise ships are classified as 40,000 gross tons and over, which roughly holds 1,360 passengers -- like Fred. Olsen Cruise Line's Balmoral. Smaller cruise ships like P&O Cruises' Adonia would not be affected as it weighs just 30,000 gross tons -- 710 passengers.
A spokesman of P&O Cruises told Cruise Critic, "CLIA [Cruise Lines International Association] acknowledges and respects the verdict […] and its member lines have chosen to voluntarily refrain from bringing ships above 96,000 tons to Venice until a new navigational route becomes operational." They also added, "we are looking forward to welcoming a final decision by the Italian government on the alternative route for big ships in Venice."
—By Jasmine Shaddock, Cruise Critic contributor