British Petroleum (BP Plc) has concluded a $7.8 billion (£4.9 billion) deal with plaintiffs over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010.

The agreement is with the Plaintiffs Steering Committee (PSC), which represents the interests of fisherman and businesses whose livelihoods have been affected by the oil rig explosion and the subsequent oil spill from the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico.

"The settlement was good news for the victims of the Gulf oil spill who will see their losses compensated much more quickly than the victims of the Exxon Valdez oil spill," Reuters quoted David Uhlmann, a University of Michigan law professor and former chief of the Justice Department's environmental crimes section, as saying.

"It also paves the way for BP to negotiate agreements with the federal and state governments and begin the process of moving beyond the Gulf oil spill," he added.

However, the company's worries are not yet over as it has to settle the claims by the US government and drilling partners.

The US government is seeking compensation for violations of the Clean Water Act and other laws, which could squeeze billions of dollars in fines from BP. Other claimants are several Gulf states and its drilling partners.

"The United States will continue to work closely with all five Gulf states to ensure that any resolution of the federal law enforcement and damage claims, including natural resources damages, arising out of this unprecedented environmental disaster is just, fair and restores the Gulf for the benefit of the people of the Gulf states," Reuters quoted Wyn Hornbuckle, a US Justice Department spokesman as saying.

The terms of agreement with the PSC have not been disclosed in the order signed by Judge Carl J Barbier, of the District Court of Louisiana.

BP's troubles started when the Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana on April 20, 2010, while drilling a well in the Macondo Prospect.

Up to 11 workers were killed and millions of barrels of oil was spewed into the sea in the disaster which is the largest oil spill in US history, endangering marine life and dependent livelihoods and natural resources.
The rig was owned by Tranocean Ltd, based in Switzerland, and the well was owned by BP, headquartered in the United Kingdom.