HURRAY: Harwood Marine workers appreciate the company has been able to keep them employed for the two years the slipway has been out of action.
HURRAY: Harwood Marine workers appreciate the company has been able to keep them employed for the two years the slipway has been out of action. Tim Howard

$10M on the books when slipway finally reopens

THE massive rusting wall holding back the Clarence River from the workers beavering away on the new Harwood slipway is just a month away from coming down.

For Ross Roberts, the managing director of slipway owners Harwood Marine, it won't be a moment too soon and something worth celebrating.

"There's not a lot of good news stories around, but this is one of them," he said.

Ever since the cracked concrete and worm eaten pylons of the old slipway collapsed in October 2014 he and the management team have racked their brains finding ways to keep their workers on the job.

>> RELATED: $1.7M contract helps keep Harwood Marine afloat

Mr Roberts said this had included doing such "un-marine" jobs like bringing the Coraki Bridge into the workplace in sections and repainting it, or repairing a potential competitor's dry dock "just so we can keep paying wages".

"We've also used our people to rebuild the slipway," Mr Roberts said.

Mr Roberts said the way the workers had tackled everything thrown at them in such a huge job was a credit to them.

"Digging out all the mud, stabilising the walls and removing the cracked concrete was a huge job," he said.

The discovery of contaminants in the soil had created more problems, but with guidance from the Environmental Protection Authority, they have been successfully removed and a program put in place to stop contaminants getting into the soil.

Mr Roberts said once work began more and more problems came to light.

"If we had known the final size of the job before work started, we might not have done it," he said. "But once we got into it, we just had to keep going."

Mr Roberts said all the work had been privately financed by one of Harwood Marine's backers, which is why the cost of the project cannot be made public.

Mr Roberts is confident the company's backer will get his money back.

"We have 18 jobs booked for the slipway already worth about $10 million and we're quoting on a lot more," he said.

"We've had inquiries from the owner of two super yachts. We've never had those sorts of inquiries."

Mr Roberts hopes a visit to the site last week by Federal Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester means the government is taking an interest.

Mr Roberts said the new slipway has the capacity to handle vessels up to 80m in length and with a draft around 4.6m.

"There's nothing the navy is building now that we couldn't handle," he said.

>> Harwood Marine voted 2014 Business of the Year



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