Sophia sails into row about monster ship in Venice


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The Independent Online

Environmentalists are urging Italian screen legend Sophia Loren to ditch her endorsement of the latest giant cruise liner to sully the views and pollute the air of Venice. The 140,000-tonne MSC Divina, which the actress christened last month in France, gained the dubious title at the weekend of becoming the largest liner ever to enter the lagoon city.

The monstrous vessel, which is 40m longer than the wrecked Costa Concordia, swept past St Mark's Square, and no doubt blotted out the sun from some positions, while protesters, like specks on the shore, waved banners which read "No Big Ships".

In its open letter to Ms Loren, the No Big Ships Venice Committee said: "We can't believe that you want your name, which is a legend in Italy and the world, to be associated with a ship that contributes to the destruction of Venice, part of humanity's heritage. We are asking you to give up your role as godmother of the ship. Venice belongs to the world. Help us save it."

The Divina has a first-class suite named after Loren which is decorated with pictures of the Oscar-winning actress at various stages of her career.

Silvio Testa, the campaign group's spokesman, told The Independent that the overriding concern was the amount of pollution belched out by the mammoth vessel. "This thing produces the same amount of pollution in an hour as 15,000 cars. Not only that – the pollution contains 15 times as much sulphur as car fumes. That's why we want this huge vessel banned from the lagoon."

The campaigners also claim that the ship's vast bulk displaces such huge quantities of water it sends damaging currents into the smaller canals of the fragile lagoon city. "Much of Venice is already in a precarious state. With all this water surging in, the damage will be very serious," said Mr Testa.

Following the Concordia disaster – the vessel grounded off the island of Giglio on the Tuscan coast in January, with the loss of 32 lives – the government banned the close approach of vessels weighing more than 40,000 tonnes. Liner companies operating in Venice are able to get around the ban, however, because alternative routes in and out of the main port do not exist.