ROME Italy is urgently seeking cruise ships to put up world leaders and thousands of delegates at this year's G8 summit on an island off Sardinia.
Italy is to host some 25,000 people in and around the small Mediterranean archipelago in July for a three-day event which local media say has turned into a logistics nightmare.
The civil protection authority -- which usually deals with national emergencies and natural disasters but has been put in charge of the summit's organization -- has posted a tender for the ships on its website. Offers must be submitted by April 7.
La Repubblica newspaper said Wednesday a similar tender went unanswered last year, leaving organizers scrambling to find the ships with just over three months to go to the July 8-10 summit.
The MSC Fantasia, a 333-meter-long cruise liner carrying nearly 4,000 passengers, will host most of the heads of state, government leaders and their delegations.
But it is unclear whether it will be able to dock on the La Maddalena island, where the summit is taking place, as its draft, the distance between the water line and the bottom of the hull, may be too deep.
In that case, passengers would have to be ferried or flown back and forth to the island and then on to the summit venue.
About 16,000 security force personnel will be deployed for the summit -- and they have also been looking for ships. Organizers also expect 4,500 journalists to cover the event, based in a press center on mainland Sardinia, 50 km (30 miles) away from the summit premises.
The head of the civil protection authority, Guido Bertolaso, said in a statement Wednesday that preparations for the summit were proceeding in the best manner possible.
The Maddalena archipelago, which is made up of seven islands at the northern end of Sardinia, is a top tourist destination known for its rocky coastline and pristine waters. The main island which will host the summit measures 20 sq km and has a population of 13,000.
It was picked by the Italian government, which chairs the G8 this year, to keep protesters at bay and avoid a repeat of the violence which marred a G8 summit in Genoa in 2001.
(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Janet Lawrence)