Wave generator removal depends on winds

The removal of the Oceanlinx wave generator from the coast of Port Kembla could be six months away, despite the company's previous promise it would be gone by the end of last year.

However, an Illawarra-based contractor yesterday defended the delay, saying his workers could be forced to wait for winter's westerly winds before they continued work to tow the rusting structure away.

Blue Sky Services director Jeremy Clarke, who was last year contracted by Oceanlinx to remove the wave generator, said safety concerns had slowed the operation.

"We've had some really bad weather in the last three months and safety-wise I can't get people out there [because] we have to boat out there and take a lot of gear with us to do the work," he said.

"It can be a beautiful day but if the wind is an easterly, we get big waves and we can't get out to it."

Despite previous criticisms over the time it was taking to remove the wave generator, which broke free from its moorings and crashed into rocks in May 2010, Mr Clarke said removal efforts were now "in full swing".

But he said westerly winds usually occurred from July to August, meaning the best time to work on removing the generator could still be six months away.

"We did a lot of work during that period last year, but we had ordered the airbags to float it and they didn't arrive until recently, so we haven't been able to attach any of them," he said.

"Realistically, this could take up to six months but if we get a really good run of weather now it could be two months - but basically it's beyond our control." 

Mr Clarke said there was about a month's work to be done before the airbags could be attached to the structure.

His company then hopes to be able to float the wave generator and use tugboats from Port Kembla harbour to tow it away.

However, it appears the structure has become something of a summer attraction, with the Mercury yesterday spotting a group of young men climbing up the precarious platform and leaping into the water.

Mr Clarke said his team had installed safety hand rails, filled in holes and erected signs to warn people not to climb or jump from the platform.

"It is rusting and it does need to be removed, and that's why we've got danger and warning signs up where you can access the machine in the hope to prevent people from getting up there," he said.

"We recommend people should stay off the machine."

NSW Roads and Maritime Services, which has jurisdiction over the wave generator, also urged people not to approach the vessel for safety reasons.

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