For years, the citizens of Venice, Italy have been calling for a dramatic reduction, or outright cessation, of major cruise ships calling on the city. They cite the cruise ships’ air, maritime, and visual pollution, as well as the throngs of visitors that the ships bring to the city, as the major reasons they want to stop the cruise activity. These calls have escalated over the past 36 hours after a cruise ship crashed into another ship at Venice’s port yesterday, injuring five people.
As the MSC Opera cruise ship was pulling into port yesterday morning, the ship lost control and collided with a river boat which was already docked. Video of the incident shows people running away as the Opera sounded its horn moments before the crash. CBSNews.com reports that the Opera was already suffering from engine problems before pulling into port. Two tugboats attempted to guide the ship but were powerless to stop it from colliding with the river boat.
A spontaneous protest ignited within minutes of the incident. Venice residents called for cruise ships to be banned from the city, claiming that they are damaging the local marine ecology, culture, and skyline. "These cruise ships bring a huge, huge number of people concentrated into the city, and they've acted like kind of the icebreaker for the destruction of Venice through mass tourism," environmentalist Jane Da Mosto told CBSNews.com.
With its 2 million tourists per year, the Venetian economy has undoubtedly incorporated the cruise tourism revenue into the region’s greater overall budget. Italian government officials have been reluctant to push back too hard against the cruise industry. In response to Sunday’s collision the country’s transport minister indicated that the government is close to a solution which would both see the local marine ecology protected and allow cruising to continue.
In contrast, Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro echoed the sentiments of the people and their frustrations with the cruise industry, saying “Once again it is shown that big ships cannot cross the Giudecca Canal."