Italy announced on Tuesday it will ban large cruise ships from sailing into Venice starting Aug. 1, declaring the lagoon a national monument.
The decision comes after UNESCO drafted a recommendation in June to add Venice to its list of World Heritage in Danger, including “damage caused by a steady stream of cruise ships.” The United Nations culture body is slated to meet later this week in Beijing.
Government officials called it “an important step for the safeguarding of the Venetian lagoon."
The decree establishes Venice’s waterways as a national monument, providing enhanced state protection typically given to artworks or historical buildings.
“The intervention could no longer be delayed,” Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini, said in a statement.
The ban applies to ships exceeding 25,000 gross tons or longer than 530 feet sailing the lagoon basin near St. Mark's Square and the Giudecca Canal. Starting next month, large cruise ships will be rerouted through the Venice lagoon, and dock on the mainland, at the industrial port of Marghera.
The government said that a maximum of five berths will be created at Marghera, at a cost of €157 million ($185 million).
It has promised compensation for those who lose out financially from the law, although it did not specify whether this includes any of the 4,200 local workers employed by the cruise industry.
Italian premier Mario Draghi's office noted that smaller ships that don't have any of those characteristics “are considered sustainable” to the Venetian environment and can continue to dock in Venice. Permitted ships generally have about 200 passengers compared to the thousands that huge cruise vessels carry.
The Cabinet also "establishes an unbreakable principle, by declaring the urban waterways of St. Mark's Basin, St. Mark's Canal and the Giudecca Canal a national monument," the minister said.