The cruise industry has sought to counter criticism of the impact large ships are having by sailing through the centre of Venice.

However, the Cruise Lines International Association (Clia) pledged to work with local authorities over possible alternative future options for large ship visits.

Clia wants co-operate with local and national institutions and also to consider potential long-term future options for ships exceeding 96,000 tons.

The global cruise industry body said it was “determined to find an alternative route to the passage of large ships in the Giudecca Canal as soon as possible”.

A solution to questions raised over the passage of ships in Venice has been on the agenda for the past five years.

Cruise companies have voluntarily limited the access to the Venice Lagoon to ships of more than 96,000 tons and have also limited the overall number of arrivals.

But Venice has lost 400,000 passengers, from 1.8 million in 2013 to 1.4 million in 2017.

Passenger arrivals fell by 13% of 72,000 in the first half of 2017.

If all big ships were denied access to the Lagoon in the future, the number of passengers in Venice would fall by 90% from 2012 levels, with an 85% impact on expenditure on local goods and services to €40 million from €283.6 million. Employment would fall by 83% to 600 workers from 3,660, Clia claimed.

“This decline of the Venetian homeport has provoked a bad effect in the whole Adriatic Sea, that in 2016 lost 6,5% of its total number of passengers,” Clia added.

At a press conference in Venice yesterday, Clia said: “Cruise companies have come together today like never before to find a solution.

“They have simulated access to Venice via the Vittorio Emanuele III Canal at Marittima, an excellent passenger terminal in Italy and in the world, which remains fundamental.

“Three large cruise companies – Royal Caribbean, Carnival-Costa, MSC – have made joint simulations with six ships of different sizes, testing them in a variety of weather conditions, sometimes even adverse. The exercise gave positive and encouraging results.”

Clia added: “Cruise lines are seriously committed in Venice, as they are everywhere else in the world, to preserving the beauty of the destination and its natural environment, which are both the right thing to do and an indispensable resource for the vitality and prosperity of the industry itself.

“Member cruise companies voluntarily entered into the Blue Flag agreement in Venice and have invested more than $1 billion in clean technologies with a view to improving environmental performances and further reduce the impact of emissions. This is part of an ongoing process that continuously lowers the impact of existing and every new ship.

“The cruise industry respects the environment and represents a form of sustainable tourism for the city.

“The tourist flows generated by cruise passengers are controlled and organised with ample time, with a view not to cause problems to the city or overcrowding it.

“It is not a touch-and-go kind of tourism and this is due not only to Venice being a homeport, but because the cruise passenger spends more than the average tourist.”