Italy's government vows to solve Venice cruise ship problem

Out-of-control ship hit tourist barge and wharf, injuring four

03 June, 19:56

    (ANSAmed) - Rome, June 3 - Transport and Infrastructure Minister Danilo Toninelli has said the government is close to finding a solution to the problems caused by cruise ships in Venice after a dramatic crash on Sunday.

    The MSC Opera, which was out of control because of a mechanical problem, crashed into a tourist barge and a wharf on the Giudecca Canal in an incident in which four people were injured.

    The accident has strengthened calls for cruise ships to be banned from Venice's central canals because of the dangers they pose, as well as the pollution they emit and the damage they do to the city's structures and the ecosystem of its lagoon.

    "We have been working with utmost resolution for months to resolve a problem that has been left to rot for too many years," Toninelli, a member of the ruling 5-Star Movement (M5S), said in an interview published in Monday's edition of La Stampa. "There are institutional talks that are moving forward and an encounter is already scheduled with other ministers concerned to reach a definitive solution, without shortcuts, that covers the tourist economy and environmental protection".

    He said that "we are in favour" of stopping big ships docking in the centre of the city.

    "But first it is necessary to find the alternatives, the definitive one and the provisional one, so that Venice does not lose cruise tourism," he added. "After years of stalling, we are close to a solution that is capable of finally holding together all the interests in the field. "The project will be chosen by the end of June".

    Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is riding high after his League party triumphed in the European elections, called for fast action.

    "There's this ship problem in Venice. You read up and there are working hypotheses, but you have the 'buts', the 'maybes' the 'it depends'," said Salvini.

    "Today here we have the Italy that wants to say yes to things.

    "There's a project for the ships. Good, let's do it right away". Venice prosecutors said they have opened a probe into the incident but no one has been placed under investigation yet.

    The vessel's movement systems (engines, steering and the black box) have been put under sequester but the ship itself has not.

    A technical examination will be carried out over the next few days. Bruno Cherchi said he would only be able to open an case over the injuries if the people who were hurt file a complaint.

    So far none of the four, two of whom are still in hospital, have done so. The president of the northern Adriatic's sea-port-system authority, Pino Musolino, was urgently summoned by the transport and infrastructure ministry and, as a result, had to cancel a press conference he was set to give on the accident, the agency said on Monday.

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