Over 50 Leading figures from architecture, art, film and fashion - Including Norman Foster, the director of London's National Gallery Nicholas Penny, the director of the Guggenheim Foundation Richard Armstrong, and Hollywood stars Cate Blanchett, Michael Douglas, Julie Christie, Michael Caine, Tilda Swinton and Rob Lowe - have signed a petition pleading Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the Italian Minister of Culture and Tourism, Dario Franceschini to keep large cruise ships out of Venice.
The petition, created by the UNESCO-backed Association of the International Private Committees for the Safeguarding of Venice, says is a reaction to both the aesthetic intrusion caused by the cruise liners, but also what it believes is a "probable risk of catastrophe" due to the possible effects that such large ships could have on the fragile Lagoon surrounding Venice.
More on the cruise ship controversy after the break
The Venice cruise ships have already been a source of controversy for years, with an ongoing campaign led by the 'No Grandi Navi' (No Big Ships) protest group. This led to a decision last November to reduce the number of ships arriving in Venice by 30% from its current rate of 1,100 trips per year. However, this ruling was overturned in March due to the significant contribution to the economy that the ships bring.
One proposal to create a new route for the ships which would allow them to approach from the South, rather than through the city from the East, has been criticized due to the fact that it would require dredging a 20-meter deep channel in the lagoon, which could accelerate sediment loss and cause further risk to the city's foundations.
Anna Somers Cocks, chief executive of The Art Newspaper and a signatory on the petition, added: "A proposed floating port outside the Lido entrance, with passengers coming in on smaller boats, would be the best solution, but where is the money to come from?"
The petition in full reads:
Dear Prime Minister, dear Minister,
Having prevailed against flood, pestilence, and war for more than thirteen centuries, Venice, the Queen of the Adriatic, and unparalleled UNESCO Word Heritage site, now, in a moment of relative tranquility, finds herself mortally threatened by the daily transit of gargantuan ocean liners, indifferent to the probable risk of catastrophe.
Since the flood of 1966, Italy and countless Italian and international supporters have contributed to the defense of the world’s most fragile city, eternally subject to destruction.
The absolute lack of respect presented by the outlandish spectacle of the ongoing obstruction and potentially destruction, of one of humanity’s pre-eminent monuments is not only dumbfounding but both morally and culturally unacceptable.
We urgently request an immediate and irrevocable halt to the traffic of the Big Ships in front of San Marco and along the Giudecca Canal putting an end to this senseless devastation.