Sunday 2 June 2019 dawned like a perfect day. From the rooftop terrace, the Lagoon looked sparkling blue, the Lido and the islands of the southern Lagoon bright and clear in the distance.
And Venice was getting ready to celebrate a special day like I cannot recall in history, three feasts at the same time (long weekend during which Venice was hosting Il Palio delle Repubbliche Marinare, then celebrating La Festa della Sensa). 2 June also marks the national holiday in Italy. What a wonderful day everyone was looking forward to.
Who would have guessed at 8:00 am that this day could well be regarded as la svolta – the decisive change in later years? But then, La Festa della Sensa had always been about decisive change and defining moments, as you can read in this blog post. Change that Venice needed to survive and flourish.
As always on a Sunday morning in June, an MSC Crociere ship enters the Lagoon around 8:10 am. This towering cruise ship has become a familar sight Venetians watch with an uncanny feeling. After all, MSC Preziosa had already suffered a technical problem in April 2014, hitting the embankment at Stazione Marittima. And then again, on Sunday afternoon, we can watch the “swimming city” leave the Lagoon, like this – la nave sbuca tra le case di Venezia:
On 2 June 2019, MSC Opera, according to reports published in the Venetian daily Il Gazzettino, lost control just after passing Piazza San Marco, due to a motor defect. La nave sbandava, and it seems we owe to the rimorchiatori (tugging boats) that the cruiseship didn’t crash into Venice. Into the churches Santa Maria della Salute and I Gesuati, to be precise.
The two rimorchiatori (tugboats) were able to pull the helpless cruiseship towards San Basilio, where the port area begins. Here, it crashed into the embankment and a smaller river cruise vessel, River Countess anchoring on the banchina. The crew of the River Countess succeeded in making an emergency move and thus could save the lives of their passengers, while the boat was badly damaged and four passengers injured.
According to the reports published in the latest edition of the Venetian daily Il Gazzettino, it seems that we owe to the captain of the tugging boat accompanying the cruise ship on its left, that Venice was spared the catastrophe. The Venetian captain of the small tugboat succeeded in keeping the huge vessel to the left for more than 5
100 meters, towards the middle of the canal, and thus avoided that the cruise ship crashed into the Santa Maria della Salute and Gesuati churches. In fact, he was able to delay the crash until they reached the area of the San Basilio embankment. Catastrofe sfiorata.
One alternative suggestion, letting cruise ships reach the port of Venice via a canal running parallel to the city across the southern Lagoon (Canale Vittorio Emanuele III) would mean increasing its current depth from 11 to 120 (!!??) meters). The territory is sandy and unstable, as this area has been subject to three maremoti (seaquakes) in history.
Excavating another deep water canal also means there’s more space for high tides to enter and flood Venice faster. Put in a nutshell: Cruise ships shouldn’t be in the Lagoon: Creating a port platform outside the Lagoon is the solution endorsed by a number of engineers, including the most renowned amongst them, Professor Luigi d’Alpaos. His latest book, SOS Laguna, was published two weeks ago on 19 May 2019, and covers exactly this problem.
In this interview with RAI 3 TV, Professor D’Alpaos explains why Canale Vittorio Emanuele would aggravate the situation of the Lagoon, and why the only solution is to remove the cruise ships from the Lagoon altogether, towards a port platform located outside the Lagoon, exactly where it was during the times of the Republic of Venice.
I’m going to cover Professor D’Alpaos’ book SOS Laguna and the Canale Vittorio Emanuele II in my next blog post. And we’ll share the ancient solution, implemented until 1797, by the Republic of Venice.33