A year on from the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster, the luxury liners that ply the waters just in front of St. Mark’s Square in Venice are stirring unease in the world-famous lagoon.
The debate pits conservationists who are up in arms about the environmental damage caused by the giant ships against supporters who say they bring the city much-needed revenue from passengers.
The sight of cruise ships as tall as apartment blocks just a few meters from St. Mark’s Basilica is an arresting one.
Official figures from the European Cruise Council show that the cruise industry brought some 536 million euros in revenue to Venice last year and employs 5,470 people in the city.
The arguments from cruise ship supporters fails to convince Cristiano Gasparetto, a local architect and campaigner for conservation group Italia Nostra who has taken a leading role against the cruises.
Gasparetto said the cruises damage the foundations of ancient buildings and contribute to atmospheric pollution since even when they are docked they can produce the equivalent of emissions from 15,500 cars every day.
Given Venice’s global status as an architectural treasure, the debate has foreigners riled up too. World cultural figures including Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk and US writer Bill Viola signed a petition to the Italian government in October asking for restrictions to be enforced.