Protesters in Venice demand cruise ships to be banned from city

ITV News Correspondent Ellie Pitt reports on the protests against cruise ships in Venice

The first cruise ship since the pandemic began arrived in Venice on Saturday, amid protests from Venetians.

The MSC Orchestra collected 650 passengers before leaving for Bari, in southern Italy on Saturday.

They were met with angry protesters, who say the enormous vessels pose environmental and safety risks to the canal and city.

The MSC Orchestra cruise ship exits the lagoon as a flag of the Lion of St. Mark, the symbol of Venice, is being waved. Credit: AP

Earlier this year Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi pledged to remove cruise ships from the Venice lagoon, but reaching such a goal could take years.

Venice has become one of the world's most popular cruise destinations, in 2019 carrying nearly 700,000 passengers, according to the association Cruise Lines International.

The MSC Orchestra responded with noisy blasts of its horn, while two dozen boats filled with port employees and VIPs motored alongside, celebrating the renewal of cruises and the return to work for hundreds of port workers.

Some celebrities, including Tilda Swinton and Mick Jagger have supported an appeal urging the Italian government to introduce a special law to safeguard Venice.

Sir Mick Jagger said: "This fragile entity, world heritage site cannot survive without our help."

Sir Mick Jagger is among some celebrities who have signed a petition to safeguard Venice. Credit: PA

But some are in support of the cruise ships visiting the City.

According to the Venice Works Committee, more than 1,700 workers deal directly with cruise ships, from tug boat drivers to baggage carriers, while another 4,000 jobs depend on cruise traffic.

Francesco Galietti, Director of the Italy unit for the Cruise Lines, said they "don't want to be a corporate villain."

"A lot has been said about impact in a very fragile and delicate environment, but our contribution to the overall tourism inflow is fairly minimal, we are just a tiny fraction the overall tourism," he said.

Galietti said cruise ships account for only a small percentage of the tourism to Venice, somewhere around 5%, and that many passengers stay in the city before or after their cruises, contributing an average of $200 a day to the tourism-dependent economy.

  • Italian Cruise Lines boss Francesco Galietti says the cruise ships are just a "tiny fraction" of the tourism in Venice

Prior to the pandemic, Venice struggled with over-tourism, receiving 25 million visitors a year. It was about to impose a tax on day-trippers before the pandemic struck, bringing tourism to an abrupt halt.

But environmentalists say the cruise industry must change.

Passengers stand on the deck of the 16-deck MSC Orchestra cruise ship as it departs from Venice. Credit: AP

Jane Da Mosto, executive director of We Are Here Venice, said: “Venice is at water level. There are days when Venice is below water level.

“We need ships that use renewable energy.

"We need ships that don’t bring thousands of people into our narrow alleyways at one time.

"We need visitors that are interested in learning about Venice.”