Sloane had seen the wreck of the Concordia in news reports and couldn't say no to the challenge. He describes meeting the team "sweating in a suit" at an awkward dinner at which few words were spoken. He says he broke the ice by skillfully ordering the best food on the menu.
Sloane is one of those rare sources whose charisma offsets the mind-numbing technological details about things like caissons, strand jacks and water glass. He is also a challenge for Costa's public relations people, who have had to corral him in to have more control over the message about the company's dedication to cleaning up the Concordia.
In the early days after the salvage operation began, Sloane would simply tell it like it is -- including the risks and challenges he and his team faced saving the Concordia from the bottom of the sea. He was all too happy to commandeer a tug and take any curious journalist with a notebook or camera around to see the ship up close and personal. But as the salvage operation reaches its critical stage, Costa is ever more mindful about putting a positive image on its delicate operation. They are just as aware that Sloane is about the best good-will ambassador they could hope for on a project with an eyesore that is hard to dress up and make pretty.
"Nick is a real leader both in life and at work. He is very professional and friendly at the same time," said Mina Piccinini, head of communication and sustainability at Costa Crociere, whose daunting task has been to put a positive spin on how Costa has taken responsibility for the accident. "He is loved and appreciated both by the islanders and by the members of the team. Journalists define him as 'charismatic Nick.'"
Eventually the Concordia will be a distant memory for the people of Giglio -- and once the ship and those saving it have left, they will try to return to normal, though the island will forever be scarred by the disaster.
"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."