Venice might finally ban giant cruise ships from the historic city centre

After years of unsuccessful attempts to limit cruise-ship traffic in Venice's historic city centre, the massive boats may soon be diverted to an alternate port.

The big cruise ships in Venice

Venice has been grappling with the issue of overtourism for years, but despite ongoing conversations around the subject, large cruise ships are still permitted in the city center. Image by Giuseppe Cottini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Then again, it could be more of the same. On  7 August, in a parliamentary hearing, Italian transport minister Danilo Toninelli reportedly detailed his plan for rerouting the giant cruise liners as early as September – an idea that was quickly shot down by other government representatives. 

Protest Against The Cruise Ships In Venice

Demonstrations broke out in June after a massive cruise ship crashed into a small boat docked in the canal. Image by Photo by Marco Panzetti/NurPhoto

When it comes to following through with potential solutions to the problem of overtourism at the UNESCO World Heritage site, Italian officials have delayed previous plans. In January, the city of Venice announced that day-trippers would be charged an entry fee, then pushed the start date back to January 2020 in the face of complaints from tourism operators about implementation. And the initial proposal to divert large cruise ships was floated in 2017 under a four-year rollout plan.

Venice's Grand Canal at dusk

Venice residents would like a return to more peaceful days on the Grand Canal. Image by Matt Munro/Lonely Planet

In early June, a 13-deck MSC ship collided with a tourist boat docked on the Giudecca Canal, injuring five people and panicking countless others. And just a month later, there was a narrow miss in the Venice port, when another huge boat nearly took out a yacht in the midst of a storm. The events sparked protests city-wide, with many Venetians calling for a total ban on large cruise ships in the lagoon and pressuring the transport ministry to rectify the issue. 

Whether Toninelli’s latest proposal will do the trick remains to be seen. Nicola Ussardi, for one, is sceptical. “There’s a lot of chaos surrounding the issue in general,” the No Big Ships activist told the Guardian. “But these are just declarations, nothing official.”