di Marcello Mento
Venice, March 17 - A regional administrative court on Monday accepted a request to suspend restrictions on large cruise ships passing through Venice. The request had been submitted by Venezia Terminal Passeggeri, the organization that runs the Venice port, as well as several companies active in the port and a committee representing cruise operators. The court said alternative routes for the ships have yet to be determined. The suspension lasts until a June 12 hearing on the issue. Last November the government of ex-premier Enrico Letta ordered a halt to large cruise ships passing through the Venice lagoon, effective from November 2014, and a limit on smaller cruise vessels effective in January. The regulation came in response to the crash of the Costa Concordia cruise ship in early 2012, which killed 32 people off the coast of Tuscany. Similar regulations had been imposed earlier throughout the rest of Italy, where the cruise industry plays a smaller role in the local economy. Environmentalists warn that the lagoon surrounding Venice, itself a UNESCO heritage site, is at great risk due to its fragile ecosystem. Other experts warn that the thousand-year-old underwater wooden piles that prop up the city would crumble like toothpicks under the weight of a 114,500-ton cruise ship like the Costa Concordia. In addition, liners ushering tourists into the heart of the city disrupt the extremely fragile foundation of Venice and its medieval monuments by displacing massive amounts of water in the shallow lagoon. Over 650 cruise ships pass through the city annually. The new provisions would tighten daily limits on cruise liners, with no more than five ships over 40,000 tonnes allowed passage, obliging many ships to find alternative docking outside the city itself.