Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

The summer crowds have returned to Venice, and so, too, has talk of limiting large cruise ships.

According to a CNN report, the Italian transportation minister said plans are in place to start rerouting some of the larger ships to dock at Fusina and Lombardia terminals next month. The ports are on the other side of the Venice lagoon, away from the city's central islands.

"Starting now, we will decrease the number of liners passing by Giudecca and San Marco, particularly the bigger ones," CNN quoted Danilo Toninelli, the Italian minister of infrastructure and transport, as saying at a recent transport committee hearing.

"The aim is to reroute about one third of the cruise ships already booked on Venice towards new berths by 2020," he added. "We've been talking about big ships for 15 years, and nothing has been done. These floating palaces will start to go elsewhere."

But CLIA Europe says no final decisions have been made.

"There is currently no ban in place preventing cruise ships from visiting Venice," the group said last week. "Discussions concerning the future of cruise ships using the Giudecca Canal have been ongoing for several years, and those discussions continue today without any conclusion."

The group added that Toninelli said that he has set up a working group to look at alternative solutions, which could see some ships rerouted to the mainland Fusina and Lombardia terminals, but no decision has been made.

"The cruise industry has worked diligently with [Toninelli], the mayor of Venice, the Veneto Region, the Port Authority and many other stakeholders to find viable solutions to allow larger cruise ships to access the Marittima berths without transiting the Giudecca Canal," said Tom Boardley, secretary general of CLIA Europe.

"We are still in agreement with the solution developed by Comitatone [an interagency committee of the Italian government] in 2017 to utilize the Vittorio Emanuele Canal as the best and most prudent means to move larger cruise ships away from the Giudecca.

"CLIA cruise line members welcome and will support the urgent implementation of this solution."

While protests and talk of limiting cruise traffic in the crowded city, which has become a poster child for overtourism, have been ongoing for years, safety concerns, as well as tensions, were reignited in June after an MSC Cruises ship, the MSC Opera, slammed into a docked Uniworld river ship, the River Countess.

Video showed panicked passengers fleeing the incident, but no one was seriously injured.

More than 20 million tourists visit Venice each year. During high season from April to October, an estimated 32,000 cruise ship passengers disembark in Venice daily, according to the Port Authority.

And even if they government does make changes to where the ships docks, it won't necessarily reduce those numbers.

In fact, it could just spread the problem, says Ralph Hollister, associate Tourism analyst at GlobalData.

"Rerouting cruise ships away from Venice's center will give local residents the impression that their complaints have been taken on board," he said. "However, it is probable that redirected tourists will commute to the central islands via large coaches and taxi services instead.

"This will spread the issue of overtourism to new areas outside of the center, creating traffic congestion that will pollute suburban areas."

Cruise editor Tom Stieghorst is on vacation. Jeri Clausing covers river cruising and tour operations for Travel Weekly.

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