A reader of this blog from Italy just sent me several articles regarding what many are describing as a near miss between a Carnival cruise ship and the Riva Sette Martiri, close to the Piazza San Marco (the principal public square of Venice, Italy).
An Italian newspaper reports that the Carnival Sunshine was sailing in the basin near Venice when its stern swung perilously close to the Riva Sette Martiri. Onlookers estimated the distance to be approximately 20 meters from the historic site.
A local commissioner complained that around 11 AM on July 27th, the Carnival ship, weighing over 102 thousand tons, 272 meters long, 35 meters wide and 62 meters high, almost struck one of the piers near Venice’s Piazza San Marco.
The impression was that is was either error in the operation of the cruise ship, or that the ship was conducting a "flyby" (also referred to as a "bow") for the thrill of the passengers.
The newspaper article contains several first hand accounts that the Carnival ship was "tailing" out of the channel and close to the shore. One person said It’s not the first time that happened."
Carnival responded by stating that this was a "false story." The cruise line was quoted stating that the news is "completely false." Carnival claims that its cruise ship was over 72 meters from the shore and was following the planned route and was well within the permissible limits. Carnival also stated that the ship was under the command of a local port pilot. The distance from the shore was tested both by Carnival and the Italian Coast Guard based on the data of the VDR (voyage data recorder) of the ship.
Its hard to tell from the video below exactly how close the cruise ship came to shore. My thought is that whether it’s 20 meters or 70 meters, either way that’s too close to the shore of this beautiful city.
But whatever happened, it’s sure to rekindle the debate whether monster cruise ships have any business in these waters.
Italians are naturally sensitive to the prospect of a massive ship causing damage to its historical treasures. The Costa Concordia disaster is still in everyone’s minds. Even more recent was the Jolly Nero incident. A large container ship cashed into a pier at a port in the Italian city of Genoa, causing numerous deaths and catastrophic damage.
There has been a great deal of controversy whether huge cruise ships like this should be permitted to sail into the basin by Venice. Environmentalists argue that cruise ships are overwhelming Venice with tourists and causing significant air pollution and eroding the foundations of the historical city.
My personal thoughts about the issue are expressed in an article Are Cruise Ships Ruining Venice Or Just Memories From My Youth?
Update / Correction: I erroneously referred to the basin by Venice as the "’Grand Canal." The cruise ship was not in the Grand Canal, rather it was in the Guidecca canal,
The Daily Mail has an article about the incident with additional video and photos.
Another newspaper, the Independent, published an article Cruise Ship Has Alleged Close Call in Venice. It quotes Carnival saying that the captain was at the helm, not a port pilot.
July 29 2013 Update: Some newspapers in the U.K. are suggesting that the Carnival cruise ship was saluting CEO Micky Arison who was on a yacht nearby. Arison defends the maneuver on Twitter, tweeting: "To all my Venetian friends. Capt, Pilot, & Coast Guard with GPS evidence agree that the ship made a normal & safe transit thru the lagoon."
A cruise blogger, John Honeywell, who was on the Carnival Sunshine at the time of the alleged flyby, confirmed that Arison’s yacht, Sirona III, was moored in the basin and that Arison was standing at the stern of the yacht when the cruise ship came by. Honeywell was an invited guest and was part of a group of U.S. and U.K. travel writers. He later wrote a piece defending his cruise line host, calling the articles about the incident "ludicrous" and "complete nonsense."