PRISONERS OF THE TIBER

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Because of unfavourable weather conditions, the regatta has been cancelled”. After some deferments, the Sailing Committee of Fiumicino, which organises a winter championship with over 100 boats, resigns itself and stops the competition.

The video above shows our attempt to go out and then our decision to give up, together with the other sailing and motorboats.

But what were the weather conditions on Sunday 21th February? Sun, spring temperature, little rough sea, eastern 8-9-knot wind moving rightward up to 12/13 knots.

Perfect conditions. So? So the problem, which is getting more and more pressing, was represented by the usual plank, that is a mass of sand which reduces the bottom at the Tiber’s mouth, by making entrances or exits dangerous or even impossible. At the same time, from the gat of Fiumicino, some miles northernmost, with the same conditions, boats sailed without problems.

The phenomenon is usual in all gats obtained in the rivers and it occurs when the sea’s push and the opposing current’s one meet and cause this mass. At Fiumara Grande, the natural Tiber’s mouth, this phenomenon is recurring and it always oblige hundreds of boats to stop.

The cancellation of Sunday follows that one of Saturday, always for the same reason, and many other ones. A big pain in the neck for both the sailors and the sailing committee which organises and collects enrollments and money. But this is not the main problem.

Moreover, the fact that boats can’t enter or exit from a gat or any other harbour is normal in the relationship with natural elements. But it’s not the case of Fiumara Grande.

The central matter is safety at the entrance of what is the biggest marina of the Tiber and one of the biggest marinas in the Mediterranean Sea even when weather is good.

The situation of mouth bottoms is in fact  borderline. Even when the sea is flat, boats must follow unknown routes which are not indicated on a map or pilot book in order to avoid running ashore. The depths indicated on the Blues Pages of about 3,20 metres are only a memory. The indication to stay in the middle of the channel is true today but it will be maybe false tomorrow because bottom follows the movement of the sea and the river. Those who don’t know the mouth well risk to run ashore.

Fiumara Grande is not only a big marina with about 4,000 moored boats. It is also a zone where there are a lots of shipyards, small private marinas,boat storages, nautical clubs and restaurants, shops. A real nautical district.

How is it possible that passage at the entrance of the marina has become so dangerous even in normal conditions?

Considering Fiumara Grande’s history, with all its squattings, is the gat only a formality? Who must pay attention to safety, maintenance and cleaning?

We turned these three questions to the Port Authority of Rome. We haven’t received any answer yet, except for the request to send the same questions by e-mail. We look forward for a reply. Meanwhile, we have studied some ordinances and documents produced by Region, Ministry of Public Works, Coastguard, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department of La Sapienza University.

In particular, we have discovered an ordinance issued on December 17th 2002 about “the Regulation for the protocol of navigation and maritime traffic on the Tiber River” which declares the river navigable from Duke of Aosta bridge to Tiber island and from there to the mouth. It establishes that “navigation in the Tiber river is forbidden to all boats with a draught exceeding 2 metres”. In practice, most of the sailing boats which are moored in the shipyards and docks along the banks.

But if, as it often happens, we wanted to overlook an ordinance, the fact remains that today navigation under the old lighthouse (off for decades) is dangerous in any condition.

This ordinance says an important thing: according to authorities, the gat of Fiumara Grande exists to the point that they issued a specific regulation 14 years ago. Following ordinances, traceable on the Coastguard’s website, establish limits, waivers, permissions for passenger and sport vessels.

For today, it’s enough. Tomorrow, waiting for a Coastguards’ reply, we’ll listen to the main characters and we’ll try to understand why with the last dredging ordered by the Lazio region, sand and mud have been removed  north of Tor Boacciana Island and thrown into the river, a little southernmost of the same island

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