A mini barge in the Roaring 40s | Polarjournal
The aluminium barge Rallier du Baty is registered in Marseille like its mother ship the Marion Dufresne II. Image: DR

The French Southern and Antarctic Territories lacked a multi-purpose vessel to unload equipment, men and women and which could adapt to the specificities of each archipelago. Piriou Réunion has now delivered a barge.

On March 10, Rallier du Baty, a new barge, joined the port foredeck of the Marion Dufresne II, an oceanographic and supply ship of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF). This small barge is 11.5 m long and 5 m wide and its presence will significantly improve the transport of material to the bases of Crozet, Kerguelen and Amsterdam, more than 3,000 km southeast of Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean.

It replaces the “portière” – a term from the Taafian dialect, i.e. specific to the TAAF – which is a non-motorized floating barge. It was part of the kit of the nautical means of the Marion Dufresne II, and consisted of two air-filled pontoons on which rested a wooden platform secured by ropes. This kind of “raft” accommodated containers, crates or cars essential to the base, for a ship-to-shore trip of a few cables (a few hundred meters).

A speedboat from the mother ship – the Marion Dufresne II – towed it from the sides of the ship to the beach of the Baie du Marin at Crozet where it could sometimes get stuck. At the Kerguelen, the delivery of containers was facilitated by the wharf at Port-aux-Français. At Amsterdam Island, they used a ramp to receive it.

Rallier du Baty is a first for the logistics of these maritime territories, it is designed to carry one 10 tons container of material. It may run aground on the beach or lean against a dock or loading ramp. On Kerguelen, with the island’s barge – theAventure IIRallier du Baty could be a great asset and the supply operations would be accelerated, leaving a little respite for the crews who would like to go for a drink at Totoche, the only official bar on the island.

This new barge will also facilitate the work of the helicopter, which does not carry a load greater than 750 kg. Rallier du Baty could also save some stopovers and disembark the temporary workers on mission for the islands, when, greeted by bad weather conditions, the helicopter remains stuck on deck.

Costs were one million euros for its construction which was carried out by the Piriou shipyard of Reunion Island according to the plans of Mer et Design. This was the group’s first construction project on Reunion Island: “For us, it is a question of boosting the local industry and showing that we can build it here, using our group’s expertise,” commented Christophe Lagathu, the shipyard’s Indian Ocean director, in hte journal Le Marin.

The vessel is powered by a 170 hp or 130 kW engine, and can accommodate a 20-foot container. It will soon be put to the test, since this Friday the Marion Dufresne II is leaving for a southern rotation voyage.

Camille Lin, PolarJournal

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