Historic, fascinating and beautiful, Venice is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. In fact according to recent statistics, the ancient Italian city attracts some 22 million visitors a year, and counting. A large portion of these visitors are cruise ship passengers, with the last 15 years seeing a huge 439% increase in cruise dockings. According to the Venice Passenger Terminal, this makes it Europe’s most popular port. The cruise economy also draws in millions of pounds a year and is an imperative part of Venice’s local economy.
Cruising related concerns
While the locals welcome the boost to the economy, the increasing number of visitors has also raised concerns about the preservation of the magical waterside city. UNESCO claims that the bulky nature of cruise ships is especially damaging to the city’s fragile structure, causing accelerated building erosion and increased air pollution, as well as compromising the beauty of the cityscape.
Peter Debrine, head of the World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme at UNESCO explains, “Tourism is a double-edged sword. You can’t have those kind of numbers come into a site and not have a negative impact.”
What’s the solution?
Thankfully, Venetian officials have come up with a clever solution to the issue – the construction of an offshore cruise ship terminal which will eliminate the need for vessels to enter the lagoon and Grand Canal. It’s also an ideal solution to the proposed construction of a new channel which could potentially harm the existing ecosystem of the fragile lagoon.
Renato Bodi, a spokesperson for Duferco Engineering, the Italian based company responsible for initial planning explains, “It would take about two years to build and would avoid having to dig a new channel, which would be 100 metres [110 yards] wide and would have a big environmental impact on the lagoon. It seems to us to be the perfect compromise.”
The artificial island will sit in the Adriatic and see passengers disembark using a 3000 foot long man-made jetty. A fleet of catamarans would then ferry guests to the heart of Venice. With the capacity to carry 800 passengers in less than an hour, the catamaran proposal would be both efficient and conservational. It would treat passengers to the experience of entering the Grand Canal via boat, without any of the associated issues. The smaller scale of the boats would also put an end to complaints about the many mega-liners which dwarf the city’s elegant monuments and plazas. Issues of pollution and erosion would also be put to bed!
What will it cost?
The offshore cruise ship terminal is a clever idea but it doesn’t come cheap! According to Duferco Engineering, the construction of the jetty would cost a colossal £100 million. It would be capable of housing up to five cruise ships at a time and cater to thousands of passengers each day.
“It’s the most logical solution,” says Bodi. “It would remove the big cruise ships from Venice’s lagoon while still allowing passengers to experience the magic of arriving by water.”
According to Bodi terminal construction would take around two years and has already won the support of many of Venice’s major politicians, environmental groups and conservation societies. While plans have not yet been confirmed, Duferco Engineering is hoping to get the go-ahead in the next few months.
Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: Bass_nroll