The Port of Marghera

The Port of Marghera, stands as a significant industrial and commercial hub, located on the mainland just north-west of Venice.

As an essential part of the larger Port of Venice, it ranks among Europe’s most extensive coastal industrial areas. Since construction first started in 1920, it has evolved into a modern complex, boasting a comprehensive network of service infrastructures and plays a vital role in the economy of the region and Northern Italy. The post also covers key environmemtal challenges, arising from the ports development and its affect on the local marine ecosystems.

Together, the Ports of Venice and Chioggia comprise the North Adriatic Sea Port Authority.

Introduction

History and development

Key Environmental challenges

Links (internal-external)


 

Introduction

The North Adriatic Sea Port Authority (NASPA), comprises the Ports of Venice and Chioggia. Strategically positioned at the apex of the Adriatic Sea, it serves as a junction for two major European transport corridors: the Mediterranean and the Baltic-Adriatic trade routes, linking Central Europe with the Middle East and Africa. Additionally, it acts as a terminal for the riverine route traversing the Po Valley, facilitating river-maritime intermodality through the conveyance of goods by barge.

The Port of Venice, consists of two main areas:

  1. Porto Marghera area, where logistics, commercial, and industrial activities take place.

Porto Marghera covers over 1,447 hectares of industrial, commercial, and tertiary operational areas, with over 662 hectares of canals, basins, roadways, and railways. It is served by 12 kms of active quays accessible to ships with a draft of up to 11.5 metres. Inside the Porto Marghera area, there is a dense network of service infrastructure, including road connections (40 kms), railway tracks (over 135 kms), and fibre-optic cable (7 kms). The Fusina ferry terminal located on the southern edge of the port, covers 36 hectares and has 4 berths.

  1. The Central Venice terminal, primarily developed in the Marittima area and smaller berths, including the San Basilio Pier, where passenger activities for cruise ships, hydrofoils, and yachts are carried out.*

(Note 1. The Venice Railway Viaduct, was constructed in 1846. The area of the Stazione Marittima in Venice, was developed as part of Venice’s expansion and industrialisation at the beginning of the 20th century. The Ponte della Libertà was designed in 1932, by engineer Eugenio Miozzi and construction began in the same year. It was officially opened by Benito Mussolini in 1933. The road and rail link run alongside each other and is under 3 miles long. Just to the west of the Marittima and close to the Piazza Roma is the Tronchetto (Isola nuova), an artificial island created in the 1960’s and used as a car parking facility and drop-off point. The Venice “People Mover” a mono-rail cable car transport system started operating in 2010; connecting Piazzale Roma with the Marittima cruise terminal and Tronchetto island.  The whole 870-metre-long journey takes just a few minutes.

(Note 2*. In recent years, Marghera has been handling the large cruise ships, as part of the authorities efforts to reduce the impact of tourism on Venice’s historic city centre and potential damage to building foundations. Shuttle services are provided to transport passengers to the main tourist areas. If you’re planning a visit or a cruise that includes Venice, check whether your ship will be docking at the central Venice terminals or at the Port of Marghera; as this could affect your travel plans.)

 

Satellite Image of the lagoon. The Port of Marghera complex is on the left, with Mestre sitting above it. On the western end of Venice in the centre, is the Stazione Marittima complex. Together they form the Port of Venice. Note the combined road and rail bridge linking the historic centre of Venice to the mainland at Mestre. On entering Venice, they separate to feed into the Piazzale Roma Bus and the Santa Croce Rail Terminals. 

The Port of Chioggia is located between the islands of Pellestrina and Sottomarina and serves as the southernmost entrance to the Venice Lagoon. The port has a deep water draft of 8 metres for shipping. Linked to the mainland by several  bridges, it is a charming and historically significant port city, located in the delta areas of the Adige-Po rivers. Chioggia maintains its traditional role as a fishing port (now italy’s largest); with tourism also playing a significant part in its economy. Its development strategy emphasizes planning, environmental sustainability, cultural initiatives and port-city engagement; aiming to integrate logistics and recreation to foster growth.

Together, the two ports cover a total area of over 2,045 hectares, which is equivalent to 5% of the entire city of Venice and 11% of the urbanised municipal territory. Inside the port, there are over 30 kilometres of quays, with 163 berths organised through 27 terminals, including commercial, industrial, and passenger terminals.

 

The Port of Marghera – History and development

The history of the Port of Venice, which includes Porto Marghera, dates back to a millennia-old tradition. It has evolved historically, from having its heart in the San Marco basin; to a modern facility that plays a crucial role in the economy of the region and of Northern Italy.

The area was developed to avoid the negative impact of industrial growth, on the historical city of Venice and its tourism.  Another main factor, was the development of much larger ships, requiring a significantly larger draft of water below them. The Stazione Marittima and the San Basilio Pier, located at the southwestern end of the historic centre, was reserved for cruise and ferry boats; serving tourism. The largest cruise ships now dock at Marghera.

The project was established in 1917, with work commencing in 1920; for an industrial zone and state-of-the-art port on the mainland, north of Venice and close to the town of Mestre.

The development of Porto Marghera was a major project that involved dredging deep shipping channels, land reclamation and construction of a residential housing area for workers. By 1923, the first chemical factory began production and the number of workers in the zone continued to grow, reaching 35,000 by 1970.

The port covers over 1,447 hectares of industrial, commercial, and tertiary operational areas, with over 662 hectares of canals, basins, roadways, and railways. It is served by 12 kms of active quays accessible to ships with a draft of up to 11.5 metres.

Inside the Porto Marghera area, there is a dense network of service infrastructure, including road connections (40 kms), railway tracks (over 135 kms), and fibre-optic cable (7 kms).

Marghera is capable of handling massive cargo projects, including solid fuels, minerals and iron and steel products. Its industries span chemicals, fertilizers, logistics and passenger services and includes a petroleum refinery and warehousing facility and an oil pipeline. It also has Europe’s biggest storage facility for agricultural-food products.

In terms of economic impact, companies associated with the Port of Venice, generate an estimated direct production value of 6.6 billion euros. This equates to around 27% of the municipal economy and 13% of the metropolitan economy.

In 1970, there were thought to be around 30,000 workers employed in the Port of Venice; but that figure has now declined. Today, it is estimated that approximately 1,200 companies are directly employed in the Port of Venice. When combined with the over 300 companies in Chioggia, there are a total of around 21,175 employees.

Above. View west from Bell-tower of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore; along the Guidecca Canal. Guidecca Island, left and the Dorsoduro peninsula, right. The Port of Marghera is just visible along the top centre to right corner of the image. Historically in medieval times, the Port of Venice first developed in the St Mark’s Basin. 

The Port of Marghera – Key environmental challenges

The Port of Marghera’s environmental challenges stem from its industrial legacy, pollution, deindustrialisation and the need to reconcile economic interests with environmental sustainability. Efforts to address these challenges require a holistic approach that considers both local and global contexts.

  • Pollution and Contamination. Heavy industrial activities in Porto Marghera have resulted in pollution, making it one of 109 contaminated sites in Italy.
    Approximately 49% of the zone is currently covered by decontamination projects. The historical legacy of industrial production has left its mark on the environment, affecting soil, groundwater and air quality.
  • Industrial Decline and Deindustrialization. Porto Marghera experienced a decline in its petrochemical complex during the 1990s and 2000s.
    The closure of important production sites, including chlorine-based production, posed significant challenges. While rival mobilisations aimed to limit damage to health, the environment, and workers’ livelihoods, the closure of chlorine-based production lacked full environmental remediation and relocation of all affected workers.
  • Social and Economic Crisis. The area faced a deep social and economic crisis due to the decline of industrial activities. Regulatory acts in the 1990s emphasized the degradation of the lagoon habitat and the need to address contamination of soil and groundwater.
  • Balancing Economic and Environmental Concerns. The challenge lies in finding a balance between economic development and environmental protection. Porto Marghera’s history, choices made in the past, and context-specific factors influenced its trajectory. Despite having characteristics that could have favoured its development as an Eco-Industrial Park (EIP), it eventually faced difficulties and the closing down of significant economic activities.

Marine ecosystems near Porto Marghera, have been significantly affected by various factors; mainly industrial activities in the area and to a lesser extent, climate change.

This combination of factors has resulted in a complicated environmental scenario, necessitating extensive and ongoing efforts to reduce the impact on the marine ecosystems around Porto Marghera. The region’s history of industrialization, along with the issues brought by climate change, highlight the urgency for robust conservation strategies and policies to safeguard and rehabilitate these crucial ecosystems.

The impact of industrial activities and pollutants, reaches a broad spectrum of marine organisms, such as filter-feeding clams, mussels, polychaete worms and various fish species. Efforts to mitigate these impacts are vital for the conservation of these significant ecosystems.

 


Links (internalexternal)

“Santa Lucia Train Station”

Piazzale Roma Bus Terminal”

“The Venetian Lagoon and its Ecosystem” 

Strategic location, consolidated know-how, sustainability, and intermodal hub: The Port System of Veneto, composed of the Ports of Venice and Chioggia, is the reference point for Central and Eastern Europe in cargo and passenger traffic starting from Northeast Italy.    Website: North Adriatic Sea Port Authority

 


 

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