Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Venice 'squeeze' that wasn't

The Venice 'squeeze' that wasn't

By Tom Stieghorst
*InsightReturning from Italy after a week on the Carnival Sunshine, a group of us were waiting in an airport lounge when suddenly what should pop up on the television monitors but the Carnival Sunshine.
It was some kind of news story. But none of us understood Italian, so it wasn’t until I got back to the U.S. that I caught up to the tale.
An Italian newspaper had reported that the Carnival Sunshine, on its way through the Giudecca Canal in Venice, had passed within 20 meters of the shoreline, squeezing a vaporetto water taxi in the process.*TomStieghorst 
The story was based on comments from a Venetian environmental minister who said witnesses reported the incident to him. He was quoted as wondering about the reason for this “sail by,” inferring both that there was some sort of salute to Carnival Corp. Chairman Micky Arison, whose yacht was docked nearby, and some similarity to the tragic circumstances of the Costa Concordia sinking, which was caused by an unapproved sail-by of the Italian island of Giglio.
It isn’t often one is in the position to know first-hand about a story halfway around the world. And yet in this case I was on the Carnival Sunshine as it arrived in Venice.
Moreover, I was watching from the starboard side, where the squeeze allegedly took place. I can say there was no deviation from a straight course, no audible warning from anyone on the water and no comment from any of the scores of passengers on deck that something was amiss.
Carnival said the ship passed no closer to shore than 70 meters at the point of dispute. The cruise line said the local harbor pilot and the Italian Coast Guard confirmed that, as did the ship’s voyage data recorder.
So why the uproar? 
Carnival and other cruise lines have been targets of a campaign to stop ships from sailing past St. Mark’s Square on their way into Venice. Posters and banners supporting No Grandi Navi (no big ships) aren’t to be found everywhere in Venice, but they’re not hard to find either.
Inevitably, the story alleging a close brush with shore got shoehorned into that narrative: that cruise ships are dangerously big and cruise lines are not to be trusted.
And, of course, the shadow of Concordia still hangs over all things cruise in Italy.
There might or might not be sound reasons to reroute cruise ships from the Giudecca Canal. But hopefully any decision will be based on the merits and facts, not on allegations about something that was really nothing.