There are two main proposals: diverting ships to Marghera, the lagoon’s main commercial port on the mainland, or building a port outside the lagoon.
The problem with Marghera, said a representative of the Venice port authority, is that “it is a trading port for containers, it is not built for passengers”. Also, since Marghera is in the lagoon, critics say that the diversion of cruise ships there will do little to contain the environmental damage.
Regarding the construction of another port in total: On April 1st, the Italian government approved the allocation of funds for a feasibility study for such a project. However, the process of developing the plans for the project alone should last until mid-2022, said the port authority, leaving little hope that a new port would offer a solution in the short or even medium term.
Ceasing cruise traffic until a new port is completed would take an economic toll. Prior to the pandemic, the cruise industry directly and indirectly employed 4,200 people in the region, according to the port authority, and generated revenues of 280 million euros (over $ 332 million), although most of the money does not go to the historic center of Venice.
In the meantime, UNESCO is getting impatient. Last month the agency released a report calling on the Italian government to “prioritize the option of banning large ships entirely from the lagoon” and to set a timeframe for “temporary diversion of ships” to Marghera or elsewhere.
On the same day, the agency also announced that it was considering adding Venice to its list of World Heritage Sites in danger. “The recommendations for inclusion in the UNESCO list of endangered world heritage are not sanctions, but warnings in order to find solutions,” said a representative of the agency in an e-mail statement and named as a “mass tourism, especially with the presence of Cruise ships “. the concerns of the organization.
But several government officials, speaking anonymously because Italy’s de facto coalition government is split on the issue, said they feel pressured by UNESCO and, more generally, the negative publicity Venice received when cruise ships returned after the pandemic. Recent protests have drawn the attention of the international media to the issue, and Venice is hosting a G20 summit from July 8-11.