Costa Crociere is offering uninjured passengers €11,000 ($14,460) apiece to compensate them for lost baggage and psychological trauma after its cruise ship ran aground and capsized off Tuscany when the captain deviated from his route.
Costa, a unit of the world’s biggest cruise operator, the Miami-based Carnival, also said it would reimburse passengers the full costs of their cruise, their travel expenses and any medical expenses sustained after the grounding.
The agreement was announced on Friday after negotiations between Costa representatives and Italian consumer groups who say they represent 3,206 cruise ship passengers from 61 countries who suffered no physical harm when the Costa Concordia hit a reef on January 13, 2012.
The deal does not apply to the hundreds of crew on the ship, the roughly 100 cases of people injured or the families who lost loved ones.
Passengers are free to pursue legal action on their own if they aren’t satisfied with the deal. Some consumer groups have already signed on as injured parties in the criminal case against the Concordia’s captain, Francesco Schettino, who is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all passengers were evacuated. He is under house arrest.
In addition, Codacons, one of Italy’s best known consumer groups, has engaged two U.S. law firms to launch a class-action lawsuit against Costa and Carnival in Miami, claiming that it expects to get anywhere from €125,000 ($164,000) to €1 million ($1.3 million) per passenger.
Codacons has also called for a criminal investigation into the not-infrequent practice of steering huge cruise ships close to shore to give passengers and residents on land a bit of a thrill.
The chief executive of Costa, Pier Luigi Foschi, told an Italian parliamentary committee this week that so-called “tourist navigation” wasn’t illegal, and was a “cruise product” sought out by passengers and offered by cruise lines to try to stay competitive.
The Concordia gashed its hull on reefs off the island of Giglio after Schettino made an unauthorized deviation from its approved route to bring it closer to Giglio. Some 4,200 passengers and crew were hastily evacuated after the Concordia ran aground and capsized a few kilometres away near the port of Giglio.
Sixteen bodies have been recovered and another 16 remain unaccounted for and presumed dead. Search efforts for them resumed Friday as salvage crews prepared to begin extracting some 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil before it leaks.
Passengers have said the evacuation was chaotic. Coast guard data shows the captain only sounded the evacuation alarm an hour after the initial collision, well after the Concordia had listed to the point that many lifeboats couldn’t be lowered.
Mr. Schettino has admitted he had taken the ship on “touristic navigation” but has said the rocks he hit weren’t charted on his nautical maps.