NOC operate on behalf of NERC two global multi-disciplinary research vessels the RRS Discovery and the RRS James Cook. These ships are made available for an average total of 550 days per year to the UK marine science community and their international collaborators. Operating world-wide and often in extreme environments, they are world-class platforms for marine science.

For information relating to accessing these ships please email

  • What is a research ship?

    The modern research ship has it origins in the early voyages of exploration. HMS Endeavour, used on Cook’s first expedition (1769-81) and HMS Challenger, used for the first true oceanographic cruise to circumnavigate the globe (1872-6), were typical of research vessels up until the latter part of the 20th century.

    Read more about what makes a research ship →

  • RRS Discovery

    The Royal Research Ship Discovery is designed to support the multidisciplinary research required for the 21st century. The ship is the fourth vessel to bear the name and continues the tradition of oceanographic research at sea. RRS Discovery was delivered to NERC on the 8th July 2013 by builders CNP Freire, SA from Vigo in northern Spain. She is currently undergoing sea trials with scientific research due to start in 2014.

    Read more about the RRS Discovery

  • RRS James Cook

    Royal Research Ship (RRS) James Cook was delivered to NERC on 31st of August 2006 having been built by the Norwegian shipbuilder, Flekkefjord & Maskinfabrikk AS to a design by Skipsteknisk AS. The ship is named after Captain James Cook FRS RN (1728-1779) who led 3 of the most significant voyages of exploration ever undertaken between 1768-79.

    Read more about the RRS James Cook →

  • Other research vessels

    UK marine scientists can make use of a wide range of research vessels other than the NOC-operated RRS Discovery or RRS James Cook. As well as giving more scientists access to a wider-range of facilities, using other vessels means more time for science as passage time between sites is reduced.

    Read more about other research vessels →

  • Meet the crew

    A research vessel isn't much use without mariners to operate it; meet some of the people who help keep everything ship-shaped.  There are many types of jobs on board and roles include: Officers who are in charge of operating the ship.  Engineers keep the machinery working; Seamen operate the equipment and look after the ship, and the Stewards keep everyone fed and comfortable.

    Read more about our crew

  • How to keep a ship running

    Our vessels are equipped with an adequate engineering plant to keep them self-sufficient at sea for up to 55 days. This includes providing all crew and scientific staff with all necessary requirements for them to complete essential research at sea. This ranges from powering the vessel through the water from A to B, right through to ensuring comfortable living conditions on board whilst operating in extreme conditions.

    Read more about how to keep a ship running

  • On-board equipment

    Our research vessels come with a range of in-built equipment that the scientists will use on a cruise.  Theses systems are vital to enabling measurements to be taken and samples to be collected, and without them conducting research would be a lot more difficult.

    Read more about the equipment on-board ship →

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The outputs of research generate new knowledge about the oceans. Transferring scientific knowledge to support business and industry is an important part of our NOC remit.



Our research is intended to tackle the big environmental issues facing the world. Research priorities will include the oceans' role in climate change, sea level change and the future of the Arctic Ocean.



The University of Southampton and the University of Liverpool both offer a range of highly regarded undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in Ocean and Earth Science.



For any media or press enquiries to the National Oceanography Centre follow the more link below. Please note the centre's press office is staffed from 0830 to 1730, Monday to Friday.



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Delivery Partners

Delivery Partners helping to provide marine science national capability.


Marine Science Community

The creation of a wider association of Universities and research institutions to support wider engagement of the NOC with the marine science community is now underway.



The National Oceanographic Library is a national resource for the UK marine science community.


Principal scientists

All updated information for cruise participants can be found using the Marine Facilities Planning website: