Archive for MOSE
I received this comment from an unknown reader, and while it’s right there in the Comments area of my blog, I wanted to make sure everybody had a chance to see it. (I don’t assume that everybody reads the Comments.)
The obvious reply to Emiliano’s rhetorical question is “Of course they don’t want discussion,” to be followed by “Why would they want discussion?” I would be surprised if any data is available, because I doubt that any such research has been done. Because who would care? Except Emiliano, I mean.
I’m an Italian scientist working on anti-fouling alternative solutions in Sweden. I wrote an email to “consorzio venezia nuova” in order to get some informations about the strategies they intend to put in act in order to minimize the risk of malfunction of the caissons as consequence of the formation of large colonies of fouling organism inside and outside the caissons. In my opinion the weight gain caused by the formation of colonies of barnacles and mytilus could make ineffective the floating system, i.e. even if you pump air in the caissons the caissons will rest on the bottom because the 3/4 of the volume will be occupied by fouling organisms. It could have been a great opportunity for cooperation between the consortium and scientific community, a challenging problem to solve together.
But the consortium answered “what kind of paint are you selling?”. The thing is that I’m not selling anything else that several years experience, a great network of anti fouling scientists all over the world and a EU financed project that we started in sept. 2012 and which will deal with similar problematic on cruising surfaces as boats.
I proposed them opportunity, innovation, research, in other world, science, but the Consortium seems more on the let’s make it happen here and now.
Whatever. I still can’t find anywhere some data regarding what countermeasures will be taken in this project as anti-fouling system. This would be great to know, it could help transparency and open a discussion. But maybe it is exactly what has to be avoided. Discussion!
I feel sorry for not being useful as a scientist in my country. This means that i will bit it and will keep doing my impact aboard as I already have done the past few years.
(if someone have some data about the antifouling countermeasure they gone to use please put here some link or reference)
I don’t know why they call it news — here, at least, certain things happen over and over to the point where they ought to be called olds.
Some random examples of olds would be the periodic blitz of the Guardia di Finanza against the illegal clam fishermen; the periodic blitz of the Carabinieri (or vigili, or Guardia di Finanza) against the illegal handbag sellers, with concomitant confiscation of their unfathomable supply of counterfeit goods; the periodic blitz (hm, we haven’t had one of those for a while) of the aforementioned forces of public order against the perpetrators of motondoso; and the ceaseless moaning of the city, like a raccoon caught in a foothold trap, that “no ghe xe schei,”
Two headlines this week are worth reporting, if only because we haven’t seen them for a while — though that does not mitigate the “here we go again” factor.
“Opere infinite Il Mose slitta di due anni” (Infinite works MOSE slips by two years).
MOSE: Sometimes friends and/or visitors inquire as to the progress of the floodgate project which is going to save Venice from acqua alta, so the builders claim. Despite incessant statements by interested parties giving the impression that high water is virtually a daily scourge, I should mention that I didn’t put on my boots even once last season (by which I mean acqua-alta-season, running from September to April). Not once. Yes, there was some water in the Piazza San Marco a few times. As usual, it went away after a few hours.
This headline carries no surprises but only some new information. First of all, construction projects everywhere are born behind schedule. So we are not amazed to read that the project isn’t going to be finished in 2014, as claimed a few years ago when 2014 was also a shifted-forward date. They say it’s going to be finished on December 31, 2016.
Bear in mind that the construction of the Calatrava Bridge took six years to complete (original projection: one and a half years), and it’s a simple span a mere 80 meters (262 feet) long. So looking at MOSE, if the term “Great Pyramid of Khufu” comes to mind, it’s understandable. (For the record, the pyramid was built in 20 years. MOSE was begun in 2003, but considering how far construction projects tend to expand into the future and into the budget, we may be seeing a rival for the record in the making.)
The basic reason for the change in date is that the money is running out. You may have noticed that money is not as plentiful as it once was — say, back in 2003, or even in 2006, when the government, under Prime Minister Romano Prodi, voted colossal quantities of cash for this undertaking. In my view, this was an investment, not in the future of Venice, but in the future of the investors themselves, seeing that it will require spending money for maintenance for the rest of eternity.
The Berlusconi government was less enthusiastic, but the funding continued. But now it’s different. The current government, headed by economist Mario Monti, is attempting to keep the entire country from going to the bottom with all hands aboard, so you can understand why paying for MOSE might not be seen as an urgent national priority. Especially since the current estimate on how much it will cost to finish this little adventure is 1,200 million euros ($1,451,890,000). There might be other things that cost more, but those other things might be more important to more people. Anyway, this number will also change.
Vu’ cumpra’ in fuga dai vigili travolgono due turiste (“Illegal handbag-sellers fleeing the police knock over two women tourists,” reported Monday, July 23); Blitz antiabusivi, agente travolto (“Blitz against the illegal handbag sellers, an agent knocked down,” reported Tuesday, July 24).
Nothing new here except the quantity of victims.
Translation: “”Vu’ cumpra’” is the African-accent rendition of “Vuoi comprare?” or “Do you want to buy?” It has become the generic nickname for the entire category. ”Abusivi” is a general term which could be applied to anyone doing something without a license which requires a license. (Hence drug dealers or prostitutes, for example, wouldn’t be called “abusivi.”)
In Venetian terms, an abusivo could be a clam fishermen who digs mollusks out of season, in forbidden areas, in excessive quantities. It can also describe the new self-appointed porters, mostly Eastern European men, who semi-threaten tourists in order to carry their luggage over the Calatrava Bridge for money.
But it most often is used to describe the street-sellers of counterfeit handbags and other objects such as sunglasses and tiny camera tripods. There are so many of them in critical tourist areas (Riva degli Schiavoni, Calle Larga XX Marzo, Strada Nuova) that the undermanned police forces make only sporadic efforts to punish them. They arrest whomever they can catch, they take their goods, they might even take them to court, briefly. Next day — sorry, next hour — everything has returned to exactly the way it was.
The only reason the abusivi might deserve a place in the Gazzettino would be either the assault by the police, or an unusually large amount of merchandise taken away, or physical harm to whatever unfortunate human was in their way as they were fleeing at top speed down narrow streets and around corners. In this case, two of the above.
Running into people, I note, is a good thing for the fleeing abusivi because it means that at least some of the pursuing officers have to stop to look after the injured person.
On Monday, July 23, a surprise “attack” on the sellers in the Calle Larga XX Marzo was made around 7:00 PM, when the shops begin to close and the street begins to be lined with bag-sellers. This action was a result of a petition signed by the merchants who say that potential customers are afraid to pass the vu’ cumpra’ to enter their stores. These petitions are also perennial.
The agents blocked all the exits, so to speak, and swooped down. They carried away some 400 items, mostly bags, a trifling amount, as well as 15 sellers, half of whom were clandestine (i.e., here without permission) and some of whom already had long, dense rap sheets on file. But some of the sellers fought back, particularly the one who violently pushed one agent who fell to the pavement.
Around 11:00 PM last Saturday night, on the bridge by the Danieli Hotel, a similar scene involved a woman bowled over by a man running away loaded with his bulky bag of stuff. No major harm done to her; it appears that the man got away.
Sunday afternoon around 3:00 PM in Campo San Zulian, the same scenario: Running man ricochets off woman. No major harm here either, but it’s not much more attractive to watch than it is to experience.
You may ask why this situation persists. Everyone wants to know the answer to this question. If I ever find out, I will immediately let you know. The answer might even be published in the oldspaper.
The catastrophe of the Costa Concordia two weeks ago today has been a good thing in at least one (sorry, I mean only one) way: It has given a turbo-boost to the local opposition to allowing big cruise ships to slide past the Piazza San Marco like floating Alps.
By now, images of these behemoths and Venice have become as trite as Venice and acqua alta.
There was murmuring before, but the death of a ship and some of its people has created a good deal of commotion, not only in Venice but also at the national level, concerning the desirability of allowing these ships to come here. Needless to say, the political parties have all hoisted their shields and battle-axes and are ready for combat. And, as usual, the trumpet sounding the charge tends to drown out any other sound.
I’d like to review the main points, though I have to warn you that this subject, like most other subjects here, has become a mass of insanely knotted statistics and semi-statistics and facts and semi-facts interpreted in 11,552 different ways, according to who is speaking and, ergo. what they want. Debates of the pros and cons of heavy cruise ship traffic in the world’s most beautiful city and environs are so loaded with emotion that it has become virtually impossible to hear what anybody’s really saying, though the various viewpoints are fairly simple to summarize.
Pro: There is only one item in the “pro” column on the proverbial yellow legal pad, and that’s “Money.” Venice has done everything possible to attract and keep cruise business. In 2000, only 200 ships visited Venice, and it is now the Number One cruising homeport in the Mediterranean, and the third in Europe. With the shrinking of the income from the Casino, the starving city budget is being kept alive primarily by this new touristic medium.
Don’t be distracted by the number of companies whose ships come to Venice (43), or how many ships visited last year (654) or the number of transits they made of the Bacino of San Marco (1,308) — I’d have thought there were more — or the number of passengers last year (2,248,453), even though all these numbers are pretty impressive (fancy way of saying “huge and scary”).
The only number that matters to the city, and the only factor which virtually guarantees that cruising will continue to be crucial here, is the money the city earns from it: 300 million euros (US$390,246,000) last year.
If you want to object to cruising in or around Venice, you need to come up with a suggestion for some other activity that will make that kind of money. Or, preferably, even more. Feel free to get back to me on this.
The two main items in the “con” column concern the environmental damage wrought by the floating Alps.
Erosion caused by waves (there are no waves) and/or by the suction of the motors. This suction is real: I can attest that the motors of these ships perform a phenomenal sucking/pushing action, very much like what happens to the mouthwash when you rinse your mouth. I have seen with these very eyes the waters surging in and then surging out as a ship passes, even if it passes at a distance. It’s hard to think that this could be unimportant. As we know from the humbler but more destructive daily motondoso, water going into a fissure in a foundation pulls something with it — soil, mainly — when it comes out. This eventually creates empty spaces under buildings and sidewalks.
A study done by Worcester Polytechnic Institute on the hydrodynamic effect of big ships found this: “As cruise ships pass smaller canals along the St. Mark’s Basin and Giudecca Canal, they displace and accelerate the surrounding body of water, essentially pulling water from the smaller canals. This caused a noticeable increase in canal speed and a drop in the water levels. A total of five velocity tests were completed resulting in a 57.4% increase in canal speed, and two canal height tests were completed which showed an average water level drop of 11 c (4.3 inches). The observations suggest that the root cause for these accelerations can be explained by the Bernoulli Effect: the colossal geometry of cruise ships creates fast currents and low pressure areas around the moving vessels.”
Particulate Matter, the form of air pollution made up of tiny bits of stuff from combustion exhaust. Nobody made an issue of this when Venice was a real industrial center, and nobody brought it up when the Industrial Zone on the shoreline was going full blast. Nobody made an issue of it, Lino points out, when everybody — everybody — heated their homes or cooked using wood or coal. ”You didn’t need to smoke anything,” he said — “smoke was everywhere.” But particulate matter from the ships is intolerable.
Four days after the Concordia ran aground, Corrado Clini, the new Minister for the Environment, came to Venice for a day. He was shown a number of things (MoSE was not on the list, which I can understand, because nothing can be done about it now), but the subject on everybody’s mind was the big ships.
He offered the following opinion: “Common sense suggests that if the principle value to care for is our natural patrimony, the fundamental resource for our tourism, we must avoid that it be put at risk.” You can’t argue with that.
He continued: “The traffic of these ‘floating apartment buildings’ in the Bacino of San Marco, with a notable impact, are without utility for the environment and for tourism.” If he is seeking utility for tourism, all he has to do is look at the municipal balance sheet. However, “without utility for the environment” is hard to refute.
Luca Zaia, the President of the Veneto Region, who was on hand, remarked that “The big ships in Venice are dangerous and certainly a problem to resolve. I have to admit that to see these colossi at San Marco is, to say the least, horrifying.” I myself have to admit that it’s odd that he only became horrified after the Concordia ran aground; the ships have been passing for years.
Giorgio Orsoni, the mayor of Venice, contributed these observations: “The subject of the big ships is an open one. With the Port Authority we have begun to reflect on a rapid solution which will satisfy the touristic system as well as the economic one.” Rapid solutions are not easy to come up with, because every player wants his concerns to come first. Nor would a rapid solution instill much confidence. If complex, well-reasoned solutions haven’t been found yet, why would a rapid one be any easier to devise, much less implement?
Sandro Trevisanato, president of VTP, which runs the port, stated that the big ships are the least polluting form of tourism, adding that the buses, the big launches, and cars create much more pollution than the big ships. (For the record, I’d like to say that this is the most intelligent comment so far.) He points out that emissions are one of the arguments used by those who want to ban the cruise ships from the lagoon, far beyond the aesthetic question. It’s a question of taste,” says Trevisanato. “In a few seconds the ships have passed and disappear.” Seconds? Has he never stood on the embankment on a summer Sunday evening to watch the March of the Pachyderms as they depart? Even one ship, by my estimate, takes at least 45 minutes to pass from Tronchetto to Sant’ Elena. And there could easily be seven of them, virtually nose to tail.
In any case, everybody directly involved in cruise tourism agrees that pollution must be kept at “level zero.” How to do that isn’t explained.
As for the possibility — remote, all agree — that something could go wrong with the motors, or that the ship for some other reason would suddenly become ungovernable, and that the force of inertia would impel it to ram bow-first into the Piazza San Marco or some other bit of Venice, Trevisanato says that the port is one of the most secure in the world, as the ships are protected from the effect of wind and waves, and the ships pass at a reasonable (I put that in) distance from the shores. Hard to say what is “reasonable” when the Giudecca Canal is only 320 meters (1000 feet) wide, or less. But you will have noticed that referring to wind and waves prevented him from discussing the consequences of a big ship going adrift in the Bacino of San Marco.
Someone reminded him that in 2004 the ship “Mona Lisa” ran aground in the fog in the Bacino of San Marco. His reply: “Exactly: and nothing happened.” This is true; the ship was on its way after a mere hour, undoubtedly thanks to the help of the rising tide. But the “Mona Lisa” is 201 meters (609 feet) long by 26 meters (85 feet) beam, and a gross tonnage of 28,891; not exactly a floating Alp.
The Concordia was 292 meters (958 feet) x 35.5 meters (116 feet); gross tonnage 112,000.
In any case, saying “Nothing happened” isn’t very helpful. It brings to mind the famous exchange in a Ring Lardner story: “‘Daddy, are we lost?’ ’Shut up,’ he explained.”
And the mayor’s statement that a “rapid solution” is in the works isn’t very reassuring, even if it were true. Solutions have been debated for years.
Proposed solutions so far:
Building an “offshore port” in the Adriatic where the floating Alps would tie up, and offload passengers (and luggage) into launches which would bring them to Venice. Objections: Cost, feasibility, and the obvious pollution, primarily motondoso, which would be caused by thousands of launches trundling to and fro all day. I can add the element of potential danger to people, if not to Venice, of boarding and traveling in a launch when the bora is blowing.
Make the Bacino and the Giudecca Canal a one-way street. Tourists get to snap the Piazza San Marco either coming or going, but not both. This has the advantage of not depriving them totally of this scenic opportunity, while cutting in half the number of transits. A tour operator told me that it isn’t uncommon for a potential cruise customer to ask if the ship passes in front of the Piazza San Marco. If the answer is no, it’s an immediate deal-breaker.
But this new system would require deepening a heretofore unimportant natural channel known as the Canal of Sant’ Angelo in order to create a sort of bypass. Enter the lagoon at the inlet at Malamocco, steam up the shoreline via the Petroleum Canal, then turn right in the Canal of Sant’ Angelo, which neatly brings the behemoth to Tronchetto. The ship would depart via the Giudecca Canal, so the passengers could all snap their photos.
Or, the ship would enter, as it does now, by the inlet at San Nicolo’, steam past San Marco (snap snap snap) to Tronchetto, then depart down the Canal of Sant’ Angelo, Petroleum Canal, and out into the Adriatic at Malamocco.
What’s extremely wrong with this idea — in my opinion, as well as many environmentalists — is that deepening the Canal of Sant’ Angelo would be a reprise of the digging of the Petroleum Canal, a deed which many have long since recognized as a disaster for the lagoon. A channel as straight as an airport runway and deep enough for cargo ships and tankers behaves like the average water faucet, concentrating and accelerating the force of the water passing through it. Many environmental groups date the beginning of the deterioration of the lagoon ecosystem from the creation of the Petroleum Canal. Among other things, it is estimated that this canal is responsible for the loss of one million cubic meters of sediment every year. We don’t have to care, but the myriad creatures and plants which depend on the sediment certainly do.
Digging another deep channel will almost certainly cause the same phenomenon, thereby multiplying the damage. Just what we need, when you add in the same effect caused by the deepening of the three lagoon inlets for the installation of the MoSE floodgates.
So the bypass canal, which looks so good on paper, would be yet another blow to an ecosystem which UNESCO, along with the city of Venice, designated as a World Heritage Site. Now that I think of it, the only group that hasn’t weighed in yet on this is UNESCO. Maybe they’re thinking.
Last idea: Forget Tronchetto. Move the whole passenger port over to the shoreline at Marghera. Docks already exist, or could be created, so logistically the idea has a lot in its favor. Except that Marghera is part of the dying Industrial Zone, with all the aesthetic appeal of a dying Industrial Zone. It’s like selling a cruise from Venice that actually starts in the Port of Newark or Liverpool. Intending no offense.
Speaking of the force of inertia, debates, meetings, commissions, studies (oh good, we can always use more of those) and assorted pronouncements will undoubtedly continue. I can make that claim because when the “Mona Lisa” ran aground in 2004, the then-mayor, Paolo Costa, ringingly declared that a stop must be put to the big ships passing in the Bacino of San Marco.
He said (translation by me): “What happened has unfortunately confirmed my worries, and that is that an absolute certainty doesn’t exist on the possibility to guarantee the security in this zone of the city (Bacino San Marco) which is so important and delicate. It was horrifying to see the ship aground a mere 30 meters from a vaporetto stop, and fortunately consequences were avoided that could have been disastrous and unimaginable. Now we must take rapid measures, more than one, and very detailed, that eliminate the danger of finding, one day, a ship in the Piazza San Marco. Because everything which today is at risk in the Bacino of San Marco isn’t something that can be protected only probably, but certainly, and with safety.”
Eight years have passed, two mayors have succeeded him, Costa is now President of the Port of Venice, and those “rapid measures” are still being fervently invoked.
The Port of Venice may be protected from potentially dangerous winds, but there seems to be no way to protect it from hurricanes of hot air.