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Big cruise ships prompt changes at ports

Where else can you look down on the Doge's Palace and St.

Where else can you look down on the Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Square? While overlooking this iconic city is special, so is the short time it takes after you port to reach the heart of Venice, where a stroll turns that initial thrill into seeing the place in its full magnificence.

Idyllic, isn't it? In the current era, two to three ships enter the port every day.

Many of the smaller ships, and a few of the bigger ones, dock for more than one day.

That's today. The future could be radically different.

Italy's environment committee is reviewing a bill that could give the city council of Venice powers over its surrounding waters.

That's important to a variety of committees that want to keep the ships out of the San Marco Basin and the Giudecca Canal.

If passed, the bill will ban ships of 40,000 tonnes, but Felice Casson, a senator from Venice, wants to reduce that to 30,000 tonnes. An example of ships just a couple of hundred tonnes over 30,000, and holding 700-plus passengers, are Azamara's Journey and Quest.

Even if local officials announced a ban on the ships, it probably wouldn't go into effect until there was an alternative port.

Keep in mind the two biggest cruise lines in Europe - Costa and MSC - are based in Italy.

In the end, it could come down to money. Right now, each large ship entering the port pays approximately $49,000. That money goes to the federal government. If Venice were to control the waterways, that would wind up in city coffers.

There are groups protesting against the entrance of cruise ships, but the other side has its supporters. Recently, a flash mob of 600, the Cruise Venice Committee, launched a strong appeal to show support for the 3,000 jobs tied to the industry.

The bill is at the review stage, and I would assume each side will have a long list of interveners.

Meanwhile, if you're sailing into Venice this summer - enjoy.

CONTROVERSY IN SYDNEY

About 16,000 kilometres away in Sydney, the Australian government's announcement that a naval base will be used as a dock for large cruise liners has stirred some controversy.

Sydney is running out of space for cruise ships and some, such as the Queen Mary 2, are too big to fit under the Harbour Bridge. Last year, 214 ships ported there, up by almost 40 per cent from 2010.

The national government said no to the idea in March, but apparently Prime Minister Julia Gillard has weighed in and said yes.

The location is at the Garden Island navy base in Woolloomooloo, near the heart of the city.

PIRAEUS TO EXPAND

Still with ports, there is still some money left in Greece.

Piraeus (Athens) expects to receive 220 million euros to expand cruise facilities to enable access by larger vessels. The port has designs on being the largest in the Mediterranean.

portsandbows@gmail.com

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