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Plying of cruise ships stirs up row

AFP
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One year since the shipwreck:January 13 marks the first anniversary of the Costa Concordia disaster. The cruise ship ran aground off the coast, the Giglio Island, Italy. As many as 32 were killed, while 4,200 passengers survived.Photo: AP
One year since the shipwreck:January 13 marks the first anniversary of the Costa Concordia disaster. The cruise ship ran aground off the coast, the Giglio Island, Italy. As many as 32 were killed, while 4,200 passengers survived.Photo: AP

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 ships regularly steer in close to the city's most famous monuments in a "salute" manoeuvre similar to the one performed by the infamous captain Francesco Schettino on the Costa Concordia.

For all the assurances, the sight of cruise ships as tall as apartment blocks just a few metres from St Mark's Basilica is an arresting one.

Tourism and revenue

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 ECC also said that cruisegoers represent some 20 percent of the tourist traffic in the city, which has just 58,000 inhabitants but more than 20 million tourists visiting every year.

The fear

One widespread fear among Venetians is that their city is well on the way to becoming a museum as residents are forced to leave to find jobs.

Cristiano Gasparetto, a local architect and campaigner said the ships are "monsters" that disfigure his beloved city and they add an extra burden to the local budget because of the damage they cause.

Disadvantages

"A ship of this size displaces a huge amount of water. That means that the quays along the lagoon constantly have to be renovated," Gasparetto said.

Gasparetto said the cruises also 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.

Campaign

A campaign was initiated to restrict the plying of ships. But a restriction imposed in March which banned ships of over 40,000 tons from entering the area around St Mark's Square had been suspended.

The ban on cruise ships sailing too close to the coast in Venice and in nature reserves was imposed after the shipwreck of the Costa Concordia.AFP


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