Captain Nicholas (Nick) Sloane is a born optimist: no matter how complicated a job will be, he envisages a positive outcome, all the while prepared for risks – and in his job there is no shortage of them! Nick Sloane is in demand across the world as a salvage expert. Whenever a ship goes up in flames, hits rocks in a storm, or is disabled and adrift at sea, someone gets on the phone to the 53-year-old South African – as indeed happened after the Costa Concordia cruise ship struck rocks off the island of Giglio (Tuscany) on 13 January 2012.

Just short of 300 metres in length, the vessel lay crippled on rocks, listing at 65 degrees. Of more than 4,200 passengers and crew, 32 people lost their lives, including 12 Germans. Over the following 30 months, Sloane organised some 500 men in one of the lengthiest, trickiest, and - at around 1.5 billion euros - costliest salvage operations in history. His job ended successfully when the righted vessel was towed into the Port of Genoa on 27 July 2014. Not least thanks to Nick Sloane’s cautious leadership, the salvage operation averted a major environmental disaster in the fragile marine environment off the popular Italian holiday resort of Giglio.

GEOMAR’s director Prof. Peter Herzig, Nicholas Sloane, Burkhard Baum of Deutsche Bank, and Torsten Albig, Minister President of Schleswig-Holstein (left to right). Photograph: J. Steffen, GEOMAR

In recognition of his achievement in salvaging the stricken Costa Concordia, Nick Sloane was awarded the ‘Deutscher Meerespreis’ in 2015. The presentation was held on 04 May 2015 at the GEOMAR Institute in Kiel. “The Costa Concordia accident shows us just how quickly human error can have a devastating impact on the world’s seas. Not only did Nick Sloane and his team deal successfully with an enormous engineering challenge, they also managed to prevent major environmental damage along the Italian coastline”, according to GEOMAR’s director Peter Herzig. That particular aspect of the operation was of course of particular interest to GEOMAR as a marine research institute, he said. Speaking as one of Deutsche Bank’s regional senior management team, Burkhard Baum also paid tribute to the significance of Sloane’s salvage operation. “Besides his expertise, Nicholas Sloane’s outstanding ability lies in being able to lead such a large team successfully. For all the difficulties encountered during the salvage operation, he and his team made the impossible happen, and brought the operation to a successful conclusion. He has my greatest respect for doing so.”

His Excellency Pietro Benassi, the Italian Ambassador in Germany, delivered the laudatory address by Franco Gabrielli, who had led the response of the Italian emergency services during the Costa Concordia salvage operation. Photograph: J. Steffen, GEOMAR

Franco Gabrielli paid tribute to the professional and congenial collaboration he had enjoyed with Nicholas Sloane and his team. Co-ordination with the many agencies and companies involved had worked exceptionally well. Notwithstanding the loss of 32 lives, the Italian Government, he said, was supremely grateful that the successful salvage operation had been able to contain the damage caused by the accident.

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