Will the Ban on Cruise Ships Save Venice from Losing its World Heritage Title

The ban came in the wake of UNESCO warning that the lagoon city will be put on the endangered heritage list. But will this measure be enough to make sure the city holds on to its World Heritage status
A cruise ships sailing through the lagoon overlooked by St Marks Square
A cruise ships sailing through the lagoon overlooked by St Marks Square

On July 13 this year, the Italian government declared that starting August 1 cruise ships will be banned from sailing through the city centre of the famous lagoon city of Venice. The ban came in the wake of a UNESCO warning in June this year that the international organisation was contemplating to put Venice on the endangered heritage list if the Italian government does not issue a permanent ban on cruise ships entering the lagoon city.

It was in June that people were surprised to find a cruise ship sailing into the city despite an announcement from government in April banning the ships. 

In 1987, Venice and its lagoons were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

In October 2019, UNESCO Representatives from the city of Venice, the Italian government, UNESCO and ICOMOS met at UNESCO Headquarters to discuss the ongoing challenges facing Venice and its surrounding lagoon &ndash an iconic site whose status as a World Heritage property is in jeopardy.

In a release issued by UNESCO at that time, it pointed out that Venice is threatened on several fronts &ndash from over tourism, from damage caused by a steady stream of cruise ships, including ones weighing over 40,000 tons, and from the potential negative effects of new developments. This, combined with the lack of an integrated management system for the site, have put Venice&rsquos &ldquoOutstanding Universal Value&rdquo, the hallmark of every World Heritage property, in peril.

The recent ban applies to ships weighing more than 25,000 tonnes and over 180 metre long. Now these ships will have to forego the popular route where they used to sail past the iconic St Mark's Square, up the narrow Giudecca Canal, to reach the city-centre port. Instead, they will have to dock on the mainland, at the industrial port of Marghera.

A section of the stakeholders who depended on the arriving cruise ships for their livelihood are not pleased with the ban, local media reported.

UNESCO, in its plenary session between July 16 and 31 this year, is scheduled to take up the issue of cruise ships entering Venice heartland and if the city should be put on the endangered heritage list.

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