‘Pretty stupid,’ says Captain Sloane after salvage divers’ arrest for looting Concordia

2013-11-12 00:00

“PRETTY stupid.” That was Captain Nick Sloane’s verdict on the four divers — two South Africans, a Briton and an Irishman — who were caught allegedly stealing items from the wreck of the Costa Concordia early on Sunday morning.

The luxury cruise liner ran aground at the small island of Isola del Giglio off Italy’s Tuscan coast on January 2012 with the loss of 32 lives.

Sloane, salvage master with the U.S.-salvage company Titan and himself a South African, captured the imagination of the world in September when he and his team raised the Costa Concordia in the biggest marine salvage operation ever undertaken.

All four divers who have been accused of theft were employed by Titan.

“This is the first time this has happened,” Sloane told The Witness from the deck of the Costa Concordia yesterday. “And in the past we have had 750 to 800 people working on site.”

Three months after the wreck occurred, the ship’s brass bell was stolen but once Titan took over the wreck, strict security measures were put in place. The four men were caught at 1.30 am when all work on the wreck had ceased.

“We have strict security guidelines,” said Sloane. “These guys took a chance, which was pretty stupid as there are 36 sets of cameras on board.”

The four men, who have not been named, have been charged and released on bail. When they were arrested they were in possession of a rucksack bearing the Costa Concordia emblem but police would not say what was inside the rucksack.

Sloane confirmed that no names have been released. He said once the men were freed on bail, “they were then told to pack their bags and go”.

Yesterday, Sloane was having to contend with a winter storm that hit the Tuscan coast on Sunday night with winds of 50 knots. Though the Costa Concordia is now in an upright position since the “parbuckling” operation that raised it in September, it is not yet fully floated.

Since raising the ship, Titan has secured it with steel braces and padded its landward side with cement sacks to prevent it moving and being damaged during winter storms.

“The braces are all completed,” said Sloane. “We now have 320 people working on site; next week that will be down to 75.” Then it’s a case of waiting for the spring. “Here winter lasts until March and then we will move towards refloating the Costa Concordia.

“We hope to complete the refloat by the end of June; then hopefully someone will tell us where to go.”

After the raising of the ship, search teams located the body of Maria Grazia Trecarichi, one of two victims whose bodies were not found. They were unable to find the body of Russel Rebello, a crew member. The search will only resume when the ship is in dry dock.

Meanwhile, the ship’s captain Francesco Schettino is currently on trial for manslaughter, causing a disaster and abandoning a ship with passengers and crew still onboard.

The Italian authorities have given permission for divers to access the wreck and remove items from the cabins and the cabin safes so that former passengers can reclaim their belongings.

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