Motor Boat traffic at record levels, alarm in Venice

Motorboat taxis everywhere and minimal controls. Even the boat operators are complaining, and are requesting the Mayor’s intervention.

By Alberto Vitucci, 8 July 2017

Motorboat traffic emergency. And the Canal Grande reduced to a highway. With taxis at high speed that run around everywhere. It is these same operators who are now sounding the alarm. “We have requested a meeting with the Mayor”, said a young motorboat pilot, “we cannot work like this”. Growth in tourists, growth in licenses, reduction in controls. And the result is, these days, in clear view for everyone. And yet motorboat traffic and the physical safeguarding of the city were some of the issues defined as priorities by UNESCO in order to keep Venice as a World Heritage Site. But since 2015, the year in which the city was formally served notice by the international organization, nothing has been done. Rather, the controls have been reduced, such as the group of officers in service. The activity of Argos has been reduced, the main center for the control of water traffic instituted ten years ago, with many fines annulled after appeals from the motorboat operators’ lawyers. Also slowing are the controls of the Capitaneria, the carabinieri, police and the Magistrate of the Waters which all should oversee the maritime waters. The result is chaos. It is impossible for row boats or small boats with motors to travel some canals and some high traffic areas. Waves batter the foundations of the palazzi and at times make navigation dangerous.

Rio Novo. The noise that one hears from palazzo Ca’ Foscari, at the corner of Rio Novo and Canal Grande, is unsupportable. There are thousands of trips registered day and night, almost all motorboat taxis and rentals. Dozens every minute in the peak hours. The residents protest, and have sent letters and petitions to law enforcement and to the Mayor. Rio Novo is a highway, reserved for tourists direct to San Marco from Piazzale Roma and the Train Station. Some years ago the palazzo was crumbling under the blows of the waves from the motorboats. Restorations took many years. Now the situation has worsened.

Canal Grande. The situation is in state of collapse. The absence of political will which has never distinguished between taxi service – which has to have, as in all cities, the right of access to transport clients – and tourist services which instead are not public transport services but rather commercial, has ended up annulling every rule. Also yesterday at midday was a disturbing sight.

The Officers. There are only 30 city officers in service in the canal division of the Municipal Police. There are only two boats in service, recently diverted to Tronchetto. The efforts of individuals and fines with telelasers are not enough.  The presence of uniforms often discourages those who speed. But the officers are not to be seen.

The Ordinances. Hundreds of ordinances have been enacted and then changed and integrated by the City in the last few years. This has created confusion that allows the “usually noted” to do what they wish. Absurd rules remain in force such as the limitation for trips under the Rialto bridge, limited to residents and to motorboats providing taxi service.

The Protests. Several years ago the gondoliers brought their gondolas to the city council and in Piazza San Marco to protest the motorboat traffic. Today the riches of tourism perhaps lead to somewhat milder counsels. But the situation for gondolas is dramatic in some areas such as San Zaccaria. Provisions for a fixed number have not been seen.

Launches. There is also chaos at Riva degli Schiavoni due to the arrival of dozens of Mass Tourism launches. Now the administration has announced a new location for their piers at Sant’Elena. A first step towards reorganizing. But alone it will not be enough.

Source: La Nuova Venezia, 8 July 2017


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