Venice has long been a controversial destination port for cruise ships, but Italy’s government is finally stepping up its effort to protect the city and its lagoon from the negative impact of such large vessels.

A new decree enacted Wednesday, March 31, prohibits passenger ships over 40,000 tons and container ships from passing close to Venice’s historic center. A new terminal may be built outside the lagoon for such boats so that they don’t pass in front of St. Mark’s square. In the meantime, ships fitting these descriptions must dock at the industrial Marghera Port, far from the Grand Canal.

According to Reuters, Italy’s Culture Minister Dario Francheschini said, “Anyone who has visited Venice in recent years has been shocked to see these ships, hundreds of metres long and as tall as apartment buildings, passing through such fragile places.”

For years concerns have swirled around large ships in Venice’s lagoon. In 2019, a cruise ship collided with a dock and tourist boat in Venice as it approached a passenger terminal, injuring four people. Attempts by the government have been made before to address the issue in 2013 and 2017 without success.

In a statement, the government said its ultimate goal is to “reconcile the needs to protect the artistic, cultural and environmental heritage of Venice and its lagoon with those related to cruise activity and goods traffic.”