Jim Gwinnell – Captain


Captain Jim Gwinnell – age 39

Jim is Captain of the RRS James Cook and has been a Captain since September 2015.

To be a Captain you must take three qualifications and have sea experience:

  • Officer of the Watch – this is through a Cadetship of two years – which includes 12 months sea experience
  • Another 18 months sea experience is then needed before you can take your Chief Mate Qualification
  • After a further 18 months sea experience you can then take your Master Qualification and become a Captain.

Jim has worked at sea for over 16 years and started as a Cadet. To become a Captain of a vessel such as the James Cook sea experience is equally important to seafaring qualifications. The entry requirements to the Cadetship for Jim in 1999 was 3 GCSE’s. (I’ll be speaking to one of the Cadets currently on the RRS James Cook and will tell you about their experiences and current entry requirements.) After completing his 2 year Cadetship Jim worked on North Sea supply and ROV boats for 2 ½ years. This, Jim says, was demanding work with the oil industry platforms requiring urgent supplies.

Following his North Sea work Jim spent 7 years on Aggregate Dredgers for the building industry. Here he built up his sea experience and took his Chief Mate Qualifications.  In 2009 Jim started working for NERC on both the RRS James Cook and RRS Discovery (the old and the new Discovery Ships) in the role of 2nd Mate.

Jim enjoys working for NERC – he says it’s an interesting job and different every time he is at sea. Each scientific team takes around 5 years to get their expedition from planning to reality so it is important to Jim that the scientists are able to complete their research with the crew of the ship accommodating the science team’s requirements in order to collect their data.

Jim likes the responsibility of being Captain and working with the academic community.

Jim would definitely encourage teenagers of today to look into shipping careers. His work is varied, interesting and has taken him around the world.



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