Electric boats in Venice are exempt from a a new law introduced to help restrict boat traffic and air pollution on its crowded canals.
The bylaw, which was passed August 19 and remains in effect for a 60 day trial period, is the result of a long and intense campaign spearheaded by Venetian cellist and music professor Fabio Mozzatto.
As part of his submission to the city to instate the law, he produced studies which show the levels of nitrogen dioxide and fine particle pollution on the Rio Novo are the highest in the entire region, including the industrial area and on the local superhighway ring road, the Mestre.
Grand Canal also included in some restrictions
The restrictions apply to watertaxis and other commercial and recreational boat traffic in the Rio Novo, Rio di Ca ‘Foscari, Rio di Noale, Cannaregio Canal and Grand Canal.
Taxis will only be able to travel on some of the canals on alternate days according to their existing license plates, taxis without passengers will be banned during certain times, and gasoline and diesel powered commercial boats will have to turn off their engines while loading and unloading. Also, boats will be required to follow no closer than 15 meters / 50 feet from each other. On the Grand Canal, gasoline boats are not allowed to change direction.
Completely exempt from these restrictions are “boats driven by hybrid or electric propulsion and / or other innovative power to reduce the noise emissions, and with zero release of pollutants into the atmosphere”.
The ordinance is part of a growing recognition that fossil fuel boats are having an increasingly negative impact on life in the canal city.
Growing momentum for electric boats
Gianni Darai, the Venetian representative on Italy’s Assonautica association for the boat industry, said “Venice is a universal pearl, it is very upsetting that there is more air pollution here than on land. We know that 44% of pollution is the work of engines, so let’s convert them. Let’s also set a date: by 2025 we must change, and become a world reference point for sustainable navigation“.
One of Assonautica’s proposals is a transitional period during which time Methane or LNG can be used with full electrification as the goal. Darai said “At least for the most important canals of the city, in the Grand Canal, we can say that only zero emission navigation is allowed. Then when the vessel comes come out of the main canal, other engines can be used.“
VeniceAgenda2028 is an organization that has started a worldwide petition to be presented to the Venetian authorities urging that all boat traffic on the city’s canals be electric by 2028. You can sign the petition and find out more »» here.
At the 2019 Venice Boat Show Kevin Desmond, Founder of VeniceAgenda2028 and author of Electric Boats and Ships: A History, headed up panels discussions about electrification and was joined by Assonautica, local transit authority ACT, the Alilaguna waterbus operator and a growing number of Italian companies that are building electric boats and motors.
Opposition from fossil fuel boat owners
There is, of course, opposition from the owners and operators of internal combustion boats who say that the expense is too great to change to electric, the electric boats aren’t practical and that this bylaw will actually create more emissions because the journeys around the city will be longer to avoid the restricted canals.
Public opinion does not appear to be on their side, however. There is too much evidence and general agreement that the nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants from the gas boats are bad for the historic buildings and palazzi as well as for the health of La Serenissima’s citizens and tourists.