Luminaries Demand Venice Cruise Ship Ban

The cruise ship Costa Serena sailing in front of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen, Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license.
The cruise ship Costa Serena sailing in front of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen, Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license.

Artists, architects, museum directors, celebrities, and others have signed a collective letter to the Italian prime minister and the Italian minister of culture and tourism demanding a ban on the massive cruise ships that have recently been the blight of the Venice’s Giudecca Canal, which passes directly in front of Piazza San Marco and the city’s most famous sites. However, the more than 1,100 ships using the route annually are reportedly causing immeasurable damage to the city’s delicate foundations and threaten the longterm stability of its buildings. 

More than 50 notables in all including Richard Armstrong, Norman Foster, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Michael Douglas, Diane von Furstenberg, and Carolina Herrera. “Put an end to this senseless devastation,” the letter pleads. It is first signed by Umberto Marcello del Majno, the Chairman of the Association of the International Private Committees for the Safeguarding of Venice.

Last year, efforts to curtail the number of super-ships sailing past San Marco looked to be gaining speed. An agreement signed in November would decrease the number of large ships passing through the city by 30 percent. However, a subsequent ruling in March blocked the new cap from going into effect, citing the major economic benefit through tourism that the largest ships bring to the cash-strapped Italian government. Just this Monday, culture and tourism minister Dario Franceschini announced new plans that would further  align Italy’s cultural policy with the revenue-generating tourism industry. 

The full petition reads as follows:

Dear Prime Minister, dear Minister,

Having prevailed against flood, pestilence, and war for more than thirteen centuries, Venice, the Queen of the Adriatic, and unparalleled UNESCO Word Heritage site, now, in a moment of relative tranquility, finds herself mortally threatened by the daily transit of gargantuan ocean liners, indifferent to the probable risk of catastrophe.

Since the flood of 1966, Italy and countless Italian and international supporters have contributed to the defense of the world’s most fragile city, eternally subject to destruction.

The absolute lack of respect presented by the outlandish spectacle of the ongoing obstruction and potentially destruction, of one of humanity’s pre-eminent monuments is not only dumbfounding but both morally and culturally unacceptable.

We urgently request an immediate and irrevocable halt to the traffic of the Big Ships in front of San Marco and along the Giudecca Canal putting an end to this senseless devastation.


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