Claims of cruise ship’s dangerous entry to Venice are complete fiction

//Claims of cruise ship’s dangerous entry to Venice are complete fiction

No sooner have I stepped off Carnival Sunshine, after a nine-night cruise from Barcelona, than the ship is mired in controversy over an alleged sail-by incident during its arrival in Venice.
A local writer claims the vessel came too close to shore in a manouevre intended as a salute to the company’s chairman, billionaire Micky Arison, who was watching from his private yacht.
The incident has been compared by some commentators to the navigational showboating which led to the Costa Concordia tragedy 18 months ago, and it has been seized upon by campaigners who want to see cruise ships banned from passing Venice’s fragile heritage.
In my view, the whole story is a complete nonsense.
Cards on the table; full disclosure time. I was on board Sunshine as a guest of Carnival Cruise Line; part of a group of journalists from the UK and US invited to sample the ship following a £100 million dry-dock transformation.
I was standing on the starboard side of Deck 10 as we arrived in Venice on Saturday. I saw Arison’s yacht, Sirona III, alongside at Riva dei Sette Martiri, about 10 minutes before we reached St Mark’s Square.
I watched members of the boat’s crew waving to us, but we did not pass close enough for me to realise that Arison himself was at the stern.
A few hours later, at a farewell reception on board Sunshine, Arison – who recently stood down as CEO of Carnival Corporation – chided me gently over a Tweet I had published referring to the name of his yacht.
It made him nervous, he said, that I had publicised the yacht’s presence in Venice. I replied that if he wanted to keep a lower profile, he should perhaps consider changing the vessel’s name – it’s an anagram of his own name.
I cannot believe that either of us would have engaged in that conversation if the yacht (a relatively modest craft by billionaire standards) had been the cause of a dangerous manoeuvre.
Reports suggesting that Sunshine’s captain took risks with his 102,000-ton vessel and its 3,000 passengers and put it within 20 metres of the shore ignore the fact that a local pilot was on the bridge and in charge of navigation at the time. As standard practice, two local tugs were stationed fore and aft.
Suggestions that a vaporetto was almost squeezed between Sunshine and the shore are ludicrous. The two never came close to touching and in any case these local waterbuses spend every working day plying the city’s busy waters and are well used to avoiding anything and everything in their path.
A “video” of the occurrence, posted on YouTube is actually nothing more than a collection of still pictures of Sunshine combined as a slide show. They were taken through a long lens, with a consequent foreshortening effect. Shots of other ships in Venice which form part of the video are stock footage; none of the ships shown was in the city on Saturday.
Misguided reports have claimed that big cruise ships “squeeze down Venice’s narrow canals.” It is a common misconception that the ships use the famed Grand Canal – impossible as they would be baulked by the Accademia and Rialto bridges. The ships actually transit the Guidecca canal, which is hundreds of metres wide.
It is significant that the alleged incident has been hailed as “reckless” by local pressure groups such as the committee of No To Big Ships, which claimed: “the manouevre or error destroys the argument that an accident in St Mark’s Basin is impossible.”
Italian environment minister Andrea Orlando, who has condemned the incident, is a proponent of plans to create a new channel for cruise ships entering the port, which would take them away from St Mark’s.
For now, take note of the statement from the Venice port authority: “No problems of any kind regarding navigational safety have come to light.”
Carnival says: “The passage through the Venice Lagoon occurred in full compliance with navigational regulations and well within the accepted parameters for distance from shore.” Carnival Sunshine passed more than 70 meters from Riva dei Sette Martiri on the planned route, the statement added, and Carnival said the distance from shore was confirmed by the coast guard and the local pilots association, in addition to by the line itself.
As for Micky Arison himself: he Tweeted this message: “To all my Venetian friends. Capt, Pilot, & Coast Guard with GPS evidence agree that the ship made a normal & safe transit thru the lagoon.”

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:30+00:00 29 July 2013|Cruise News|1 Comment

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

One Comment

  1. Richard Bermingham 10 August 2013 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    It’s obvious that the Italians are interested in promoting tourism in the Veneto and there’s no problem with that. The governor of that particular Italian region is a sensible person and I’m sure he does everything he can to promote the economic interests of businesses in the area he’s responsible for. The problem lies in the fact that it’s simply an atrocious example of bad taste. Venice is an open-air museum that should be protected against such stupidity. What Mr Zaia is forgetting is that one should always apply the appropriate criteria when deciding what can be permitted and what can’t.

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