Large cruise ships will be banned from sailing down Venice’s lagoon as the Italian government goes ahead with plans to reduce water traffic in the city.

Environmentalists have pushed for a ban on mass-market ships from sailing close to parts of Venice, including St Mark’s Cathedral, since early last year after congestion resulted in several deaths.

The issue has even attracted big Hollywood names such as Cate Blanchett, Rob Low and Michael Douglas, who along with 60 other celebrities signed a petition urging the government to put a stop to the “senseless devastation” brought on by the large vessels.

In November last year, Italy’s government approved a two-step cruise ship removal plan.

The first step launched in January this year with a 20 percent reduction in the number of vessels weighing more than 40,000-tonnes.

However, the second part – a ban on vessels weighing over 96,000-tonnes from crossing the Giudecca Canal – has failed to get off the ground until this week when the government confirmed the ban will go ahead.

“The order by which in 2014 and 2015 no large ship weighing more than 96,000 tonnes will be able to enter Saint Mark’s lagoon and the Giudecca Canal is back in force,” Italy’s transport minister Maurizio Lupi said.

Italy’s government is now researching alternative routes for cruise ships, and has commenced an environmental study of the Contorta-Sant’ Angelo Canal, Reuters reported.

“Our goal is to protect the environment without compromising the economy,” environment minister Gianluca Galletti added.