Fragile, waterlogged Venice has long been unhappy with the onslaught of ever-larger cruise ships that inundate its picturesque port. But the wreck of the Costa Concordia has sent fears soaring, and many in the city are calling for regulations to cut down on the 650 cruise ships that come to Venice each year and keep them further from the venerable city, reports the AP. Cruise ship tourism has increased from 280,000 passengers in 1997 to 1.8 million last year, and with the European cruise industry expected to double by 2020, that number will continue to soar.
"Venice is too often on its knees in front of the gods of economy and tourism, and we have been paying the consequences for years," says a local craftsman who is trying to get rid of the cruise ships. "The city has been emptied of its residents, and it's a victim of pollution from this unsustainable traffic." Cruise ships are responsible for about 30% of Venice's air pollution, and many residents complain that their wakes damage the city's foundations. City officials say the muddy bottom of local waters and deep canal trenches required by the cruise ships make Concordia-style disasters very unlikely, but many think long-term changes are still necessary. Venice "is designed to have ships, and we will always have ships around Venice, but not these kind of ships," says a UNESCO official. (Read more Venice stories.)