ROME (Reuters) - Gondolas and water taxis will never again have to vie with big cruise ships for space in front of Venice's iconic St. Mark's Square, an Italian governmental committee decided on Tuesday.
Venetians and environmentalists have long voiced concerns about floating pleasure palaces sailing close to the fragile city, dwarfing its Gothic and Byzantine churches.
Under the new rules, which follow a temporary limit imposed three years ago, the largest ships weighing more than 100,000 tonnes or more will take a less glamorous route to the industrial port of Marghera, far from the Grand Canal.
Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro hailed the plan as answering the requirements of residents, the lucrative tourism business, and conservation groups who have raised the alarm about damage to the shallow lagoon and canals.
"We want it to be clear to UNESCO (the United Nations cultural agency) and the whole world that we have a solution," Brugnaro said after the meeting of the governmental committee charged with saving Venice.
"This takes into account all the jobs created by the cruise industry, which we absolutely couldn't afford to lose, and we can start to work seriously on planning cruises," he added.
Work needs to be done on the new route, which will open within four years, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Graziano Delrio said at a news conference in Rome.
Ships weighing more than 96,000 tonnes were banned from the Giudecca canal in 2013, while the number of smaller ships using the waterway was limited to five a day, but that legislation was overturned at the end of 2015.
(Reporting by Isla Binnie; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)