The Fascinating World of Marine Salvage

By January 5, 2015 Article No Comments

As members of the maritime community, we at Kemplon Engineering follow news on all aspects of this truly dynamic industry. There is always something going on in shipping, fishing, cruising, sailing, the navy, search and rescue, ocean exploration and maritime archeology. But one of the most fascinating components of maritime activity has got to be marine salvage.

Stories about the achievements of living legends like Captain Nick Sloane—recently profiled by Maritime Executive and more mainstream media outlets such as Vanity Fair—include harrowing tales of fighting fires and recovering cargo on unstable vessels in unfriendly seas, cleaning animals drenched in oil after a spill, and, most notably, the billion-dollar refloating of the cruise ship Costa Concordia.

WavesImage “Rogue Waves” courtesy of Victor Habbick at

When the seas are rough and ship, crew and cargo are in trouble, or when accidents occur and mistakes are made risking a vessel and the things and people it carries, among those who arrive at the scene to recover what can be saved are marine salvagers. In a 2013 report by the International Salvage Union, the industry is said to be worth over $500 million a year, working on 150-200 salvage services and 25-45 wreck removals.

The salvage of the Costa Concordia, a cruise ship that ran aground off Giglio, Italy in 2012 and remained there for over two years, placed a renewed spotlight on marine salvage and the work of the expert in charge of the project, salvage master Nick Sloane.

The 52-year-old South African has been described by a CNN writer as a cross between Russell Crowe and Prince Harry; Vanity Fair described him as possibly being “the most valuable man on the seas”; Titan Salvage head Rich Habib referred to him as “a superlative salvage master;” and he is well-liked and well-respected in the communities, like that of Giglio, he works with.

The high regard is well deserved. Over the course of a salvaging career that began in the 1980s, Nick Sloane has succeeded in operations around the world, and in projects many believed to be impossible. The Brilliante Virtuoso, beset by prates off Yemen and set ablaze was saved sans environmental damage. There was the Treasure sinking off Cape Town and around precious penguin breeding grounds, when Captain Sloane not only worked on the wreck itself, but in collaboration with environmentalists and thousands of volunteers on saving 40,000 penguins. And just this year, he was involved in the salvage of the Costa Concordia, the largest marine salvage operation in history. The massive ship was successfully refloated and towed away from Giglio, Italy in a $1 billion-project of over two years, involving hundreds of people.

The renewed spotlight on marine salvage and salvage master Nick Sloane is a reminder that there are so many facets to the maritime industry—many products and services, many career options, many passions, and of course, different kinds of heroes facing up to challenges on a daily basis.

^ International Salvage Union. “INTERNATIONAL SALVAGE UNION PUBLISHES ANNUAL STATISTICS.”, 13 Sep 2013. Web. 17 Dec 2014.
^ Langwiesche, William. “Salvage Beast.” Vanity Fair, December 2014. Web. 17 Dec 2014.
^ Laursen, Wendy. “Salvage Master Extraordinaire.” Maritime Executive, 25 Nov 2014. Web. 17 Dec 2014.
“Profile: Costa Concordia salvage master Nick Sloane.” BBC, 17 Sep 2013. Web. 17 Dec 2014.
^ “Salvaging the Costa Concordia.” BBC, 01 Dec 2014. Web. 17 Dec 2014.
^ Witherow, Tom. “Costa Concordia salvage: Nick Sloane, the man behind the operation.” The Telegraph, 17 Sep 2013. Web. 17 Dec 2014.