Definitive layout presented for offshore platform for Venice
Plans to develop Venice’s port with an offshore platform and changes to onshore facilities are progressing. It was reported on 11 November 2014 that the Dutch company Royal Haskoning DHV presented its definitive layout of the platform to Venice’s Port Authority:
The cost of the project has been reduced and is now estimated at €2.1BN. The plan is to construct a four kilometre-shipping terminal in the sea of the Gulf Of Venice outside Venice’s lagoon. The design can be viewed here:
Venice Offshore Terminal Design Concept
The platform would be 15 kilometres (8 miles) off the Malamocco port mouth to the lagoon, where the seabed has a depth of 20 metres. The principal advantage of the platform is that it would allow today’s and tomorrow’s huge ships to call at the Port of Venice without entering the lagoon. Indeed, Venice would be one of the few ports where 20,000-TEU ships could berth. This would prevent the need to dredge deeper channels through the lagoon to allow such ships to reach the existing port on the mainland side of Venice’s lagoon. The offshore platform will also require the development of onshore facilities, especially a new container terminal at Marghera that would be linked to many European locations. The position of this terminal and the offshore platform can be seen in the map below, provided by Venice Port Authority:
Large ships would dock at the offshore platform to unload and/or load containers with smaller vessels then transporting containers between the platform and the onshore terminal. Also, oil tankers would be able to dock at the platform, from where oil would be pumped to the mainland oil through a 27-kilometre steel pipeline. This means that the legal requirement for oil tankers not to enter Venice’s lagoon (contained in Venice’s Special Laws) would be met. A four minute You Tube film of how the offshore docking system would work can be watched using this link:
Innovative cargo ships operating between the offshore platform and the Venetian mainland are being designed. These will create smaller waves within the Venetian lagoon than large container vessels currently generate and will meet EU environmental regulations for fuel use. Crucially, they will also be able to operate when Venice’s mobile dams (MOSE) are raised, which are under construction and likely to be completed in 2017. More information (in Italian) and a three minute video (in English) about these innovative cargo ships can be viewed using this link:
The Environmental Impact Study for this project was presented on 20 September 2012 in the offices of the Venice Water Authority involving many key individuals, including Venice Port Authority President Paolo Costa. By reducing traffic in Venice’s lagoon and the need to dredge new channels, the platform would have a positive long-term environmental impact. However, the Environmental Impact Study of the project did identify potential short-term negative environmental impact during construction. The first phase of building the platform, oil pipe and associated work would alter habitats, create dust, noise and gas emissions. In the second phase, congestion for maritime traffic is likely and further changes to natural habitats are possible, as described in the Venetian newspaper Il Gazzettino di Venezia here:
As explained in my book Venice in Environmental Peril? Myth and Reality (2012), long-term environmental benefits often require short-term negative environmental impacts. Moreover, the book also sets out how this platform could play an important role in transforming Venice’s Marghera port. In addition to revitalising container and oil businesses, it is estimated that this project would create 1,200 jobs. So the human benefits of this project could be significant.
Finally, it is notable that the presentation of the offshore project did not include facilities for cruise ships docking at the platform before passengers being transported into the lagoon using smaller boats. This idea has been debated, especially since the controversy over the sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Tuscany in Italy in January 2012. I outlined in the article linked below why this accident is very unlikely to be repeated in Venice due to the different way cruise ships navigate the Venetian lagoon compared with at sea:
In the aftermath of the Costa Concordia accident and the anniversary of this tragic event, it has been decided that cruise ships should continue to enter Venice’s lagoon, but will follow a new route through it that will take them away from St Mark’s Square. This does require the dredging of a deeper channel through the lagoon for cruise ships to follow as the lagoon is too shallow for them to navigate it without this. This channel is called Contorta Sant’Angelo Canal. A campaign against dredging this channel has made many misleading claims, as explained in this previous blog post:
Even though the offshore platform excludes cruise ship docking, it was welcomed by Silvio Testa of the ‘No Big Ships’ committee:
“We are satisfied…because it uses our concept that the ships are incompatible with the lagoon eco-system, whether petrol tankers, cargo or passenger vessels, they must stay outside the lagoon to recover the morphology of our territory.”
(Quoted in this article published on 21 September 2012 in the local newspaper Corriere del Veneto: Offshore_crociere_Corriere)
It seems that the platform is progressing despite some environmental objections. €770,000 for the financing of the platform has been guaranteed by the European Commission, which gave its approval to the project. It will take an estimated seven years to build the project. Despite many challenges, investing in Venice’s offshore platform could be a positive example of how public-private joint projects can develop the city.