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Profile: Costa Concordia salvage master Nick Sloane

The head of the parbuckling project Nick Sloane talks with reporters at the end of the operation at Giglio harbour (17 September 2013)
Image caption Nick Sloane: "A superlative salvage master"

As efforts to salvage the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship continue off Italy, BBC News profiles the South African expert in charge of the operation.

Nick Sloane received a hero's welcome when he came ashore in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The 52-year-old South African salvage master, hired by Titan Salvage, has been living on the Italian island of Giglio as he and his team prepared to embark on the largest and most complex maritime salvage operation ever.

He told reporters that the whole team was proud of what they had achieved, as "a lot of people said it couldn't be done".

"I think we need to get some sleep," he said, "but we'll have a quick beer and then maybe tomorrow we will have a barbecue."

Titan's boss, Rich Habib described Mr Sloane as "a superlative salvage master".

Master mariner

According to a profile in Johannesburg's City Press, Mr Sloane began his career in 1980 working on the tugs of a South African salvage company, and worked his way up in the industry.

His work has taken him around the world, wrestling with wrecks of boats, rigs and planes from New Zealand to Yemen.

US journalist Barbie Latza Nadeau, writing for CNN, described him - perhaps rather fancifully - as a cross between Russell Crowe and Prince Harry.

Most of his previous salvage operations have taken him to much tougher billets than the Tuscan island, she writes.

Mr Sloane's wife and children - 17-year-old twins and a 10-year-old - arrived in Italy in August to visit him. He said it had been difficult being away from his family for so long.

But his spell in Tuscany has enabled him to learn to appreciate the local wines, particularly Chianti and Tignanello, locals say.

Last to leave

Despite joking that he had a helicopter on standby to escape should the salvage operation not work, Mr Sloane says that he cannot leave the island for good until the ship does.

The master mariner says that when the Concordia does finally depart from Giglio, he will be on board as it is towed to its final destination for dismantling.

Image caption Nick Sloane is a well liked figure on the island of Giglio

Mina Piccinini from Costa Crociere, which owns the ship, told CNN that Mr Sloane "is loved and appreciated both by the islanders and by the members of the team".

He has held monthly meetings with local people, and was always open to respond to any of their questions.

Local officials confirm that the salvage master is held in high regard on the island - unlike the rusting hulk of the Costa Concordia which has dominated Giglio harbour for the past 20 months.

"It's more likely we would name a street after Nick Sloane than the Concordia," Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli told CNN.

"We would always welcome him back, but hopefully for a vacation next time - not for another shipwreck."

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