Barcelona has announced a ban on cruise ships docking at its central port, effective from October 22. The decision has sparked controversy as all cruise ships will now be required to dock at the southern port along the Moll Adossat pier, further away from the heart of the city. This ban will impact the city’s ‘Muelle Barcelona Norte’ northern docks and the World Trade Centre area.
The ban means that tourists getting off from cruise ships will no longer be able to strolling directly into Barcelona’s historic center. Instead, they will need to rely on a shuttle bus service to access the city from the southern port. For those wanting to reach the iconic La Rambla boulevard from the central dock, the journey will now take approximately half an hour by bus, compared to just ten minutes on foot.
Barcelona has long been a popular destination for British tourists exploring the Mediterranean, drawn by its sandy beaches and famous landmarks such as the Sagrada Familia and Antoni Gaudi’s Park Guell.
While the ban officially goes into effect later this month, the last cruise ship docked at the northern port on October 3, marking what Lluís Salvado, President of the Port of Barcelona, referred to as a “historic day for the city.” Salvado emphasized that this move aims to shift pollution away from the city center and reduce emissions reaching the urban area.
Another important aspect of the new regulations is a reduction in the number of available docking areas for cruise ships from ten to seven, beginning on October 22. These restrictions have been in development since 2018 when the municipal government and port authority in Barcelona agreed to regulate cruise ship activity. The agreement was born out of concerns about the growing tourism pressure on the Catalan capital.
Mr. Salvado stated, “The closure of the Barcelona northern docks for cruise operations is a new step to comply with the agreement signed in 2018 with the Barcelona municipal government to eliminate the negative impact that this activity could produce for citizens. This is a clear demonstration that the Port of Barcelona complies with the agreement.”
Over the past six years, Barcelona has witnessed protests against tourism, including an incident in 2017 where a tourist bus was targeted by masked attackers. Graffiti with messages like ‘tourists go home’ has also appeared in the city, indicating tension over the impact of tourism.
It’s worth noting that tourism in Barcelona has been steadily on the rise since the end of the pandemic. In the first half of 2023, the number of cruise ships arriving in Barcelona increased by 8 percent compared to the same period in 2019. On average, 3.1 million people travel through the Port of Barcelona each year.
Mr. Salvado clarified that the goal is to stabilize, rather than decrease, the number of people using the port.
Barcelona’s partial ban on cruise ships aligns with similar measures introduced in other European tourist hotspots. Venice banned ships from stopping in the Lagoon in 2021 and has discussed plans to introduce a daily tax for all visitors over the age of 14. Amsterdam, Santorini, and the Orkney Islands have also implemented or announced plans to limit or ban cruise liners.
This move by Barcelona reflects a growing awareness of the environmental impact of cruise ship tourism and the city’s commitment to mitigating its effects on air quality in the central areas.