Large cruise ships will be banned from sailing into the centre of Venice from August 1 amid fears they are causing irreparable damage to the lagoon city, Italy's government said Tuesday.
"The decree adopted today represents an important step for the protection of the Venetian lagoon system," said Prime Minister Mario Draghi in a statement following a cabinet minister that approved the law.
Instead they will be diverted to the city's industrial port of Marghera, although this is viewed as only a temporary solution, with ministers calling for ideas on a new permanent terminal.
Campaigners have for years been calling for cruise ships to be banned from sailing past the iconic St Mark's Square, saying they cause large waves that undermine the city's foundations and harm the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.
The debate was reignited by the return last month of cruise ships after months of quiet in the city during the coronavirus pandemic.
The UN's cultural agency UNESCO late last month recommended Venice be put on a list of "World Heritage in Danger" sites ahead of a meeting of its World Heritage Committee in China starting Friday.
Infrastructure minister Enrico Giovannini said the ban was a "necessary step to protect the environmental, landscape, artistic and cultural integrity of Venice".
The ban will apply to ships which fulfill any of four criteria: weighing more than 25,000 tonnes, measuring more than 180 meters long, more than 35 meters high or producing more than 0.1 percent sulphur.
Ships that do not fulfill one of these criteria -- notably smaller cruise ships with around 200 passengers -- are "considered sustainable" and will continue to be able to dock in Venice centre.
© 2021 AFP