Another Major City Bans Cruise Ships From City Center Due To Pollution, Overcrowding.

Photo: Stunning The world's largest cruise ship enters the historic lagoon city of Venice, Italy in 2019. Cruise ships are now banned from the city.
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Effective October 22nd, cruise ships will be banned from tying up at Barcelona’s most central pier  in a move to reduce emissions and pedestrian overcrowding close to the city centre. Cruise ship passengers will now have to take a bus from the outskirts of town.

Numerous residents have voiced grievances about cruise tourists, who, they contend, bring crowds without proportionally contributing to the local economy.

“You will be walking and all of a sudden there’s this mass of people who appear together in the street,” said Janet Sanz, the city’s deputy major and councillor responsible for ecology, urbanism and mobility. “They don’t consume anything and they don’t have an economic impact … They just wander for four or five hours and leave.”

The city has been concerned about the number of cruise ship tourists arriving in the city which, in 2019, just before the Covid-19 pandemic,  hit a record high of  more than 3 million. Their efforts, however, have been hampered by their lack of jurisdiction over the port.

All cruise ships will now be forced to dock at the city’s more remote southern port along the Moll Adossat pier, which is already used by some larger cruise ships such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises.

Lluis Salvado (Port’s President) emphasizes that the decision to relocate ship docking is far from arbitrary. This strategic shift, meticulously developed over the years, seeks to minimize emissions’ impact on Barcelona’s local population.

Embedded within a broader framework, this directive reflects an overarching strategy to mitigate the consequences of cruise tourism on the city. In response to mounting protests and concerns surrounding overtourism and pollution, this action aligns with the city’s endeavor to strike a balance.

The city’s ‘Muelle Barcelona Norte’ northern docks and the World Trade Centre area will both be affected by the ban.

It means that tourists will no longer be able to stroll off cruise ships into Barcelona’s historic centre – instead, they’ll have to take a shuttle bus from the dock further south to access the city.

For disembarking passengers, reaching the iconic and picturesque La Rambla boulevard from the central dock takes just ten minutes by foot. It will take around half an hour by bus from the southern port.

Barcelona has long been a popular destination for European tourists enjoying a cruise around the Mediterranean.

Visitors are drawn to the city’s sandy beaches and famous landmarks such as the Sagrada Familia and Antoni Gaudi’s Park Guell.

Although the ban does not officially come into force until later this month, the last cruise ship docked at the northern port on October 3.

Lluís Salvado, president of the Port of Barcelona, labelled October 3 as a ‘historic day for the city’.

He added: ‘We are pushing the pollution away, towards the south and reducing the emissions that reach the city.’

A new limit has also been imposed on how many cruise ships can dock at Barcelona’s ports – the number of available docking areas for cruise ships will be reduced from ten to seven on October 22.

The new restrictions have been in the works since 2018 when the municipal government and port authority in Barcelona agreed to regulate cruise ship activity.

The agreement stemmed from controversies over increased pressure from tourism on the Catalan capital.

Mr Salvado said: ‘The closure of the Barcelona northern docks for cruise operations is a new step to comply with the agreement signed in 2018 with the Barcelona municipal government to eliminate the negative impact that this activity could produce for citizens. This is a clear demonstration that the Port of Barcelona complies with the agreement.’

There has been a spate of protests against tourism in Barcelona over the past six years.

Statements such as ‘tourists go home’ have also been graffitied in the city by anti-tourism groups.

Tourism has also steadily grown since the end of the pandemic.

The number of cruise ships arriving in Barcelona increased by 8 per cent in the first half of 2023, compared to the same period in 2019. On average 3.1million people travel through the Port of Barcelona each year.

Mr Salvado explained that the goal is to stabilise, not decrease, the number of people using the port.

Barcelona’s partial ban on cruise ships follows similar measures introduced in other European tourist hotspots.

Venice banned ships from stopping in the Lagoon in 2021 and has since discussed plans to introduce a daily tax for all visitors over the age of 14.

Amsterdam, Santorini in the Greek islands,  and the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland have all also implemented or announced plans to limit or ban cruise liners.

Source: Daily Mail, The Guardian,
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