TIMID swimmers at three popular beaches this summer will have the added protection of prototype nets which manufacturers claim will keep sharks, jellyfish and rubbish at bay.
The Regional Council yesterday signed a $8.9 million contract with Maritime Mechanic Ltd for a two-year pilot scheme.
During this time the company will be responsible for installing and maintaining the nets at Silverstrand Beach and Clear Water Bay Second Beach in Sai Kung, and Kadoorie Beach in Tuen Mun.
The installation was prompted after the deaths of two swimmers at the two Sai Kung beaches last summer.
According to the contractor's proposal, the nets will form a complete enclosure right down to the seabed to prevent sharks from entering the swimming area.
They claim it will be 100 per cent effective.
The nets will be held in position by concrete anchors at the bottom and the buoyancy is provided by Polyethylene high-density pipes.
Suitable passageways will be allowed at the end of the beaches for rescue boats to pass through in case of emergency.
Managing director of Maritime Mechanic Ltd, Harald Kvam, admitted the type of net they would be installing had never been used specifically to prevent sharks, but they were confident the safety of swimmers could be ensured.
Mr Kvam said the material used - Polyamide - was a very strong nylon which was almost impossible to break and could be used to lift a car.
He also pointed out that the small mesh size of the nets, measured 25 by 25 millimetres, would virtually form a wall which the sharks would see as a massive barrier and would avoid.
''Sharks are very cautious by their own nature and will not penetrate anything which they consider as obstacle.
''This type of net has been used for fish-farming in countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines where there are many more sharks than in Hong Kong, and sharks have never managed to intrude,'' Mr Kvam said.
He said they decided to use this model because other types of shark nets used elsewhere would catch the animals. Hong Kong wanted to avoid the shark.
The nets would not only provide good protection against sharks by keeping the barrier high in the water, but also kept away jellyfish and refuse.
Deputy Director of Regional Services Benjamin Tang Kwok-bun said Maritime Mechanic Ltd was chosen because advice from professionals indicated its proposal was the most practicable and able to fulfil the requirements of shark prevention, even though the model had not been used before.