They'll be the crucial link between Australia's new icebreaker and supplies reaching remote research stations in Antarctica. Two recently-constructed 16-metre barges on Tuesday started trials in Hobart's River Derwent ahead of the launch of their mother ship, RSV Nuyina, late next year.
"This is the first chance we will have to see these heavy-lift vessels in action, so it's a pretty exciting time," Australian Antarctic Division project manager, Nick Browne said.
The barges, built to operate in minus 30C degrees, in wind speeds of up to 50 knots and carry up to 45 tonnes of cargo, will have their speed, propulsion and maneuvering capability put under the microscope this week.
"We will also test the ability of the barges to carry big trucks ashore as part of the roll-on, roll-off capability," Mr Browne said.
A 12-strong team built the barges in Hobart over 18 months. They'll be deployed with the $529 million RSV Nuyina, which is under construction in Romania and due to arrive in Hobart in October next year. It was earlier this month revealed the 160-metre ship will be 13 weeks overdue, but it is still expected to be in operation for the 2020/21 summer research season.