Costa Cruises has accepted a 1 million-euro fine to settle potential criminal charges relating to the deadly accident off the coast of Italy last year involving its cruise liner Costa Concordia.
A court ruled the company — owner and operator of the Costa Concordia, which in January 2012 grounded on the Italian island of Giglio, killing 32 people — must pay the fine in order to no longer be investigated over the disaster.
Costa, which belongs to US giant Carnival, will instead aim to take part in the expected trial as an injured party.
The company's lawyer, Marco De Luca, told reporters in Grosseto in Tuscany:
"It is a balanced solution."
Preliminary hearings begin next Monday to decide whether those accused over the grounding of the Costa Concordia, with with 4229 people on board, should face trial.
Dozens of passengers are suing the company for damages.
However, most have accepted 11,000 euros in compensation from Costa.
Prosecutors levied charges against six people including captain Francesco Schettino and the head of Costa Cruises' crisis unit Roberto Ferrarini.
The charges must be confirmed before any trial can go ahead.
Critics of the company hit out at plea bargain and the size of the fine.
The Independent quoted Giuliano Leuzzi, a lawyer leading a class action against the cruise operator, as saying:
"It is a regulated amount, but still, it hardly seems a lot given the magnitude of the disaster the company was involved in."
Leuzzi noted that despite the plea bargain reducing the company's criminal responsibility, one of its senior executives — Ferrarini — is among those expected to stand trial, adding:
"This shows in what a confused way this whole process has been handled by the court in Grosseto."
News.com.au pointed out that Wednesday's ruling would not impact on any civil proceedings.