Cruise giant fined €1m for crash that killed 32

Italy's Costa Crociere, the biggest cruise operator in Europe, on Wednesday accepted limited responsibility for the Costa Concordia disaster as the employer of some of those under investigation over a shipwreck tragedy in which 32 people died.

Cruise giant fined €1m for crash that killed 32
A photograph taken early on January 14th 2012 of the Costa Concordia after the cruise ship with more than 4,000 people on board ran aground and keeled over. Photo: AFP

A court ruled the company will have to pay a fine of €1 million ($1.3 million) and will no longer be investigated for alleged responsibility in the disaster. Costa will instead aim to take part in the expected trial as an injured party.

"It is a balanced solution," the company's lawyer, Marco De Luca, told reporters in Grosseto in Tuscany where the court hearing was held and where preliminary hearings will begin on Monday to decide whether the accused should face trial.

Prosecutors have levied charges against six people including captain Francesco Schettino and the head of Costa Crociere's crisis unit Roberto Ferrarini for the January 2012 incident. The charges have to be confirmed before any trial can go ahead.

The giant luxury liner crashed into the Italian island of Giglio with 4,229 people on board just as many passengers were dining on the first night of their Mediterranean cruise, prompting a panicked and chaotic night-time evacuation.

Dozens of passengers are suing the company for damages, although most of those who were not injured or did not lose loved ones have accepted €11,000 in compensation from Costa, which belongs to US giant Carnival.

Wednesday's ruling bears only on the criminal investigation and not on civil proceedings.

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Costa Concordia wreck to be raised in September

The wreck of the Costa Concordia, the cruise ship which crashed into the Tuscan island of Giglio in January 2012 killing 32, will finally be raised up next month, the salvage coordinator said on Friday.

Costa Concordia wreck to be raised in September
32 people died in the Costa Concordia disaster in January 2012. Photo: AFP

The wreck of the cruise liner currently lies keeled over off the Tuscan island of Giglio over a year after it crashed with 4,229 people from 70 countries on board, claiming 32 lives.

"If things go as we are expecting. I think September will be the month of the rotation," prefect Franco Gabrielli told Italian news channel SkyTG24, declining to give a precise date.

The raising of the Concordia had been programmed for September 2012 but was then delayed to May 2013 and then put off again because of technical difficulties.

The news comes on the day the Italian environmental organization Legambiente staged a protest in front of the wreck. Holding 12-metre-long banners reading "581 days and the Concordia is still here", protesters called for the removal of the wreck which the group described as an environmental and economic disaster.   

"The inhabitants and everyone who loves the island of Giglio are waiting for concrete acts to stop this tragedy from also becoming an environmental and economic disaster," Legambiente's National President Vittorio Cogliati Dezza told the television channel TG1. 

The planned salvage operation will be the biggest ever attempted for a passenger ship.

The plan is initially to rotate the 114,500-ton vessel, then attach flotation tanks to the side that is currently under water like the ones already welded to its exposed side.

The tanks will then be emptied of water to act as flotation devices before the ship is towed away to be scrapped in a port that is yet to be determined.

Salvage operators say the rotation has to occur in September at the latest because otherwise there would be a risk of bad weather later in the year.

Giglio mayor Sergio Ortelli said the operation was in its "final phase", adding that he was confident the operation the island return to "calm and normality".

Ortelli said tourist numbers on the island were down 15 percent this season compared to before the crash but said this was an improvement from last summer when arrivals were down 30 percent.