JC010: Mud volcanoes and submarine canyons


Meet...the Chief Officer

The Chief Officer on the RRS James Cook is Pete. He is second in command on the ship, and covers the 4-8 watch (like me, so I don’t see much of him around the ship!).

As Chief Officer, Pete is responsible for the following:

  • Overall management of the deck and crew; he is effectively a senior manager on board the ship.
  • The loading of the ship when in dock; this involves the use of computer software or careful calculations to ensure that ship does not roll when the cranes are used to lift heavy objects on board.
  • Managing the supply of fresh water, ensuring that there is enough for drinking, washing/showering, cooking and cleaning. Some of this fresh water is brought onboard when in dock, but the ship is also capable of making her own freshwater from sea water.
  • Ship’s security, in the role of ship’s security officer, a role that is generally assigned to the Chief Officer,
  • Safety; he is also the assistant safety officer, working with the Chief Engineer to maintain Health & Safety on board the vessel.

So, how did Pete come to be on board the RRS James Cook?

He joined the crew of JC whilst she was still in dry dock in Norway, an exciting opportunity for an officer who will take charge of the ship. Like most of the ship’s crew, Pete is employed by NERC (Natural Environment Research Council), and has worked for them since 1989. Before joining the RRS James Cook, Pete was the Chief Officer on the RRS Charles Darwin, the ship that the RRS James Cook has replaced.

Pete has been at sea for 32 years now, initially doing a 4 year apprenticeship with blue star line when he left school, and sitting his 2nd officer exams. Before joining NERC, he sailed on many other ships, spending up to 6 months away from home at a time and at one stage being the Chief Officer on a 40,000 tonne bulk carrier (that’s a big ship!). 

At present, Pete doesn’t have to spend this much time away in one hit; tours of duty are roughly 2 months on and 1 month off, but he still misses his family lots (he has two daughter aged 5 & 13). He enjoys going back to Suffolk, where he spends his time doing DIY and catching up with his family. Luckily Pete’s hobbies travel quite well with him; he is an avid Tranmere Rovers supporter, and also loves to play the guitar and listen to music. He said that he can only really bring his guitar to sea when he joins and leaves the ship in the UK though!


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