January 17, 2015 in Breaking News

Once again, Charleston should learn from Venice….

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STARS ALIGNED AGAINST BIG SHIPSLike Charleston, Venice has mixed feelings about the cruise industry. Environmentalists and preservationists — and movie stars — fear large ships will do extensive damage to the fragile city. So in November the city took a stand by banning large cruise ships (more than 96,000 gross tons) from sailing through the historic city within 1,000 feet of historic St. Mark’s Square.

But people in the tourism industry, who estimated the ban would reduce the number of tourists in Venice by 30,000, fought back. And this month, a regional court of appeals overturned the ban.

In doing so, it likely displeased the glitterati who petitioned to restrict cruise ships that have “mortally threatened” the city known as the Queen of the Adriatic. Michael Douglas, Cate Blanchett, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rob Lowe, Michael Caine, Diane Lane, Edward Norton, Susan Sarandon, Isabella Rossellini and Julie Christie are among the endorsees.

 UNESCO officials also expressed distress over the court’s action. Venice is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The ban applied, albeit briefly, to ships that carry roughly 2,260 passengers or more. (The Fantasy, which is home-ported in Charleston, accommodates 2,052 passengers.)

But Venice will have a respite of sorts anyway from the ships some refer to as “skyscrapers of the sea.” The Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 53 major cruise lines, said 2015 itineraries have already been finalized — without stops in Venice.

Further, CLIA has decided not to make longer-range itinerary plans until a decision is made about constructing an alternate route to the passenger terminal — a route that would not threaten the historic city.

Last year, Venice capped the number of cruise ships visiting at 708. (The S.C. State Ports Authority has pledged to limit the number of cruise ships in Charleston to 104 a year.)

Venice hasn’t figured it all out yet, but it’s worth noting that officials there have acknowledged cruise ships’ potential damage and are trying to implement enforceable restrictions.

Hmm. Seems like a good idea for any port to work out with its host city.

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