RRS James Cook

Royal Research Ship (RRS) James Cook was delivered to NERC on 31 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 three of the most significant voyages of exploration ever undertaken between 1768-79.

The ship is designed to carry scientists to some of Earth's most challenging environments, from tropical oceans to the edge of the ice sheets. It plays a significant role in delivering NERC's science priorities both now and in the coming decades. Substantially larger than its predecessor, the RRS Charles Darwin, the RRS James Cook is fitted with some of the most modern scientific systems available.  In addition the ship has been built to meet the ICES Cooperative Research Report no. 209 – Underwater Noise of Research Vessels, so called ICES 209 standard, meaning she is one of the quietest research vessels currently afloat. RRS James Cook is also built with a Dynamic Positioning (DP) system, enabling the ship to hold station in all but the most violent weather. This combines with the ability to deploy the Isis ROV to make RRS James Cook one of the most advanced research vessels currently in service.



  • Single & multibeam echosounder surveys
  • Integrated data logging
  • Seismic surveys
  • Clean seawater sampling
  • Remotely Operated Vehicle operations
  • CTD surveys
  • Deepwater coring, trawling, and towing


General Particulars

RRS James Cook

Call sign


Overall length


IMO number




Total Capacity:


Maximum draft


Marine crew

22 officers and ratings

Maximum displacement


  Scientists and technicians

32 according to the science type

Gross tonnage

5401 Tonnes

Average operating speed

11 knots

Net tonnage

1610 Tonnes

Endurance extreme

55 days



Endurance operational

50 days



Working areas

All oceans, including ice-edge


Lloyd’s +100 A1, Ice C, FS, LMC, UMS, DP(AM), Research Vessel

Scientific Facilities

Handling Equipment

The RRS James Cook is the most capable ship in the NERC fleet in terms of over-the-side handling capability with both the stern and midships’ ‘A’ Frames (link to gantries) built with Safe Working Loads of up to 30T.

In addition the ship has a comprehensive winch suite (link) capable of supporting all current and anticipated future scientific operations.


Permanently Fitted Sensors and Instrumentation

Research ships come with a range of inbuilt equipment that science uses on a cruise.  The systems enable a wide variety of parameters to be continuously logged whether the ship is stationary carrying out scientific work or not.  The principles behind the following systems can be read about in the on-board equipment section.  Therefore this concentrates on the type and layout of equipment specific to the RRS James Cook.

Hydroacoustic Suite

The RRS James Cook is fitted with a complex and highly capable suite of acoustic instruments designed to:

  • map the seabed in both coastal and oceanic depths;
  • measure currents;
  • measure abundance of fish (and other biomass); and
  • accurately position scientific platforms and sensors deployed by the vessel.

These instruments are fitted as described in the table and diagram below.




Hull Mounted

EM120 12kHz multibeam echosounder

Seabed mapping up to full ocean depth

SBP120 sub-bottom profiler

Imaging the structure below the seabed

Port Drop Keel

EM710 70-100kHz multibeam echosounder

Seabed mapping in depths up to:

  • 2000m
  • 700m
  • 400m
  • 6000m

75kHz ADCP

150kHz ADCP

EA600 12kHz singlebeam echosounder

Starboard Drop Keel

EK60 Bioacoustics echosounder with following frequencies:

18kHz, 38kHz 70kHz, 120kHz, 200kHz

Biomass estimation

Spar (pole)

Ultra Short Base line (USBL)

Underwater acoustic positioning

Bridge Equipment

The RRS James Cook has a modern bridge equipment including a dynamic positioning system. Read more about the bridge equipment


Function Specifications
Diesel generators 4 x Wartsila 9L20 (1,770kW / 1000 rpm each – total 7,080kW)
Main propulsion motors 2 x Teco Westinghouse DC (2,500kW 0-180rpm reversible)
Siemens alternators 690v/60Hz
Shafts / propeller 2 x Wartsila/acbLIPs, 5-bladed, fixed pitch, 3.6m diameter
Thrusters (all Brunvoll AS) One retractable azimuth forward (1,350kW)
One tunnel forward, super-silent (1,200 kW)
One tunnel stern, super-silent (800 kW)
One tunnel stern (600 kW)
Rudders 2 high-lift high angle
Diesel capacity 900m³
Fresh water capacity 210m³



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