UNESCO Director Issues Warning to Dubrovnik Over Cruise Ship Damage

Lauren Simmonds

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Another warning from UNESCO to the Pearl of Adriatic on the damage cruise ships are causing to the southern Adriatic gem.

The sensitive cruise ship topic has been touched on multiple times by various publications and portals, including by TCN on several occasions.

The British Telegraph penned an interesting article dramatically entitled ”The Death of Dubrovnik” last year, highlighting some of the perhaps lesser known burdens Croatia’s tourist Mecca continues to suffer. One of the more brutal and concerning articles that deals with the sore topic of Dubrovnik’s overcrowing and apparent inability to actually deal with it comes from CNN, who controversially warned would-be tourists to simply stay away from the city. One of Dubrovnik’s most beloved tour guides, Ivan Vuković Vuka, has also openly stated to respected publications such as TIME and El Mundo that Dubrovnik has become very much a victim of its own recent, booming success.

While there are naturally cases of being for and against this type of tourism, it cannot be denied that cruise ships cause a barely comprehensible level of pollution and damage to the environment, with numerous studies having proved that. The Italian gem of Venice was a recent case in which residents successfully rebelled against these giants entering their delicate waters, with numerous major tourist destinations across Europe quickly following suit.

Dubrovnik’s mayor, Mato Franković, has made several welcome, concrete moves when it comes to attempting to come to an agreement to lessen the overall number of tourists in the city at any one time, with the concerning volume of gigantic cruise ships being among the most pressing issues awaiting a resolve. 

A proper decision on the matter needs to be arrived to for the sake of not only the city’s already over-burdened infrastructure, which simply wasn’t designed for such high levels of traffic, but for the sake of citizens and other tourists who are finding the situation all the more frustrating to deal with, with each passing summer season.

As Dubrovacki Dnevnik writes on the 5th of April, 2018, the widely read German Business Weekly, Wirtschaftswoche (WiWo), has published a text titled “Who pays for the growth of cruise tourism,” in which the City of Dubrovnik is cited as one of the places suffering with enormous negative consequences due to the fact that it is a favourite destination for a large number of tourists, especially those arriving on massive, problematic cruise ships.

WiWo points out that in the tourist industry, there is an ”epoch of cruisers” whose numbers have never been at the drastically high volume they currently are, and that this in itself brings with it numerous extremely negative consequences. Mechtild Rössler, director of UNESCO in charge of cultural heritage, is quoted as having stated that cruisers “pollute the environment and create crowds at tourist locations” and that the tourism industry should invest more in the protection of the very same heritage and culture being used to make money out of the whole thing.

“The cruisers damage the places they make their money from,” warned Rössler, adding that Venice, as previously touched on, is the most vulnerable of them all. “The waves generated by large ships lead to the erosion of the buildings,” explained the concerned UNESCO director, before recalling that UNESCO is already thinking about declaring Venice as an endangered world cultural heritage location.

Rössler also mentions Croatia’s southernmost city of Dubrovnik as another place where cruisers are actively harming cultural heritage, rightly stating that “the historical core of Dubrovnik cannot accommodate so many tourists”. A similar situation allegedly exists in the Estonian town of Tallinn, where the same tiresome issue of overcrowding is causing tremendous problems for everyone.

The rightfully alarmed UNESCO director has therefore appealed to cruise owners to invest more in preserving cultural heritage and better cooperate with the local authorities of these potentially endangered destinations, but also to develop ships that will pollute the environment less, and cause less harm overall, according to a report from Index.

As previously mentioned, Dubrovnik’s young mayor, Mato Franković, has taken UNESCO’s dire warnings on board in a correct manner and has announced steps to create more responsible city governance in Dubrovnik in order to reduce the painfully large crowds, particularly by reducing the number of visitors allowed simultaneously to be in the historic core to just 4,000 people.


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