Author: Kerrie Forster

Article: The art and Science of Compass Adjusting – B. Cooke & Sons

The Art and Science of Compass Adjustment: A Journey of Discovery

Sylvester Perera, a certified Compass Adjuster by the MCA, shares his unique journey from Computer Science graduate to master craftsman in the field of compass making and compass adjusting. His passion for hands-on creation led him to the doors of B. Cooke & Son Ltd., where he was captivated by the meticulous craftsmanship of Brian Walker, a veteran compass maker.

Under Brian’s tutelage, Sylvester learned the art of manufacturing fully handmade Brass Magnetic Compasses and other navigational instruments. Some of the work included learning to turn parts on the lathe/metal work, soldering, studying the chemical mixtures of the different compass fluids, spraying and assembling/balancing compass floats and compasses. The completion of a batch of B. Cooke “Beverly” Compasses marked a significant milestone in his career, a moment celebrated on Channel 4 ‘Steph’s Packed Lunch’ television programme.

Sylvester’s journey didn’t stop at compass making. He delved into the world of Compass Adjusting, a field with a rich history dating back to 1650. Pioneers like Matthew Flinders, Barlow, Dennis Poisson, mathematician Archibald Smith and Lord Kelvin have all contributed to the understanding and correction of ship magnetism.

After four years of rigorous training in repair, manufacture, exams and practical adjusting of magnetic compasses, Sylvester earned his certification from the MCGA. His work now involves inspection, maintenance/repair and minimizing compass deviation on vessels, a task that brings him immense satisfaction.

The process of compass adjusting is a delicate balance of art and science. It requires a deep understanding of the magnetic properties of the earth and the ability to translate that knowledge into practical application. Compass adjusters like Sylvester are not just craftsmen, but also scientists and engineers. The Magnetic compass, a seemingly simple instrument, has a complex interior world. Its accuracy is influenced by the ship’s own magnetic field, which can cause deviations in the compass readings. This is where the adjuster’s role becomes crucial. He meticulously works to minimize these deviations, ensuring the compass points are as true as possible.

Despite the clear regulations, the emergence of remote compass adjusting practices poses a potential risk to maritime safety. These practices, often conducted via phone or email, lack the hands-on precision and expertise provided by certified Compass Adjusters. Sylvester, along with other professionals in the field, advocates the preservation of traditional compass adjusting practices to ensure the highest standards of safety and accuracy in navigation.

The importance of compass adjustment is underscored by SOLAS Chapter V, Regulation 19,2.1, which mandates a properly adjusted standard magnetic compass on all ships. In the UK, all adjustments must be made by a certified Compass Adjuster, a regulation specified by MCGA UK in the Merchant Shipping (Safety of Navigation) Regulations 2020.

In conclusion, the work of compass adjusters like Sylvester is a testament to the enduring relevance of traditional craftsmanship in our increasingly digital world. Their dedication to precision, safety, and historical continuity ensures that the art and science of compass adjusting will continue to guide us in our journeys across the seas.


Magnetic compasses should be adjusted when:

  • They are first installed;
  • They become unreliable;
  • The ship undergoes structural repairs or alterations that could affect its permanent and induced magnetism
  • Electrical or magnetic equipment close to the compass is added, removed or altered;
  • A period of two years has elapsed since the last adjustment and a record of compass deviations has not been maintained, or the recorded deviations are excessive
  • When the Compass shows physical defects.

MGN610 (M+F) Annex D Page 37

In the UK, all adjustments should be made by a Compass Adjuster who holds a Certificate of Competency as Compass Adjuster issued by the UK Government

MGN610 ( M+F) Annex D Page 38

There are a number of Companies offering remote compass adjusting by phone or email and this is an alarming and potentially dangerous situation. The Chart and Nautical Instrument Association in its 100 odd years in the UK does not condone the practice of remote adjusting in any shape or form.


It is not necessary, when there are Certified Compass Adjusters available to provide a professional service.

Whenever you need a Compass Deviation Card updated and want to be compliant with the regulations, please call or email: or

Phone and WhatsApp: +447710792959


New beginnings for the English Workboat Crewmember Apprenticeship


The English Workboat Crewmember Apprenticeship takes a new form, and name.

Now known as the “Small Commercial Vessel (SCV) Crewmember Apprenticeship”, the Apprenticeship standard has been reviewed and updated to cater for a larger candidate entry rate and the latest requirements as published in Workboat Code 3.

Published on the same day as Workboat Code 3 (27th November 2023), the new standard has a raised funding level of £22,000, (£2000 more than the previous version). Although remaining a Level 3 Apprenticeship, it also has a number of changes to the certification and training included;


  • Navigational Watch Rating Certificate (Requires sea service on vessels over 15m at sea)
  • Efficient Deck Hand Certificate (Requires a Navigational Watch Rating Certificate)


  • Replacing the EDH is the SQA Level 2 Diploma in Workboat Studies.
  • Manual Handling Certificate
  • To meet the requirements of Workboat Code 3 is,
    • Radar and Electronic Chart Systems training (Required by all persons whose role includes monitoring a Radar or ECS)
    • Yacht Master Coastal CoC (Required by a second person on vessels working +60nm from a safe haven)
    • Food Hygiene Level 2 (Required by anyone who’s duty includes preparing food on board for others)

For more information see:

Workboat Code 3 is published

The latest edition of the Workboat Code enters into force before the end of 2023. It replaces The Workboat Code Edition 2, and also the original Brown Code.

This Code applies to workboats, pilot boats and Remotely Operated Unmanned Vessels under 24m operating in UK waters, or under the UK flag operating internationally.

This Code supersedes the original Code, Workboat Code Edition 2, and also the use of MGN 280(M), moving all applicable vessels (irrelevant of age or previous certification) onto one set of legal requirements.

Member Profile: Darrell Bate, Marine Society and Sea Cadets

In this month’s edition of  our ‘Member Profile’, we spoke with Darrell Bate from the Marine Society & Sea Cadets, Britain’s oldest, and the leading maritime charity for youth development and lifelong learning…


Can you tell us about Marine Society and Sea Cadets (MSSC)?

Marine Society is Britain’s oldest maritime charity, dating back to 1756, originally founded to recruit young boys for the Royal Navy. Nowadays, we support the wider maritime sector, both ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ sides with apprenticeship training, online courses, bursaries, careers advice and even a crew library and bookshop service.


What is your role within the Company?

I came onboard as the Marine Society’s Director of Maritime Training and Development in 2019. I head up a department who’s purpose it to support and serve aspiring seafarers and professionals through education, training and careers support. Developing maritime curriculum for schools and colleges and delivering a range of apprenticeships and online learning courses via the Marine Society College and in partnership with the Sea Cadets.


What is your career background?

I started my career in the Merchant Navy as a deck officer. I had previously worked in further and higher education for 20 years, so it was wonderful to find a job that combined both elements.


What are your hobbies outside of work?

I have my own boat, a 34’ trawler yacht which takes up a lot of spare time (and money). I also enjoy theatre and film, having been an actor myself in a previous life!


What has MSSC achieved so far?

In April there was the official opening of the National Support Centre, which is an administrative hub for the Sea Cadets and is by far the larger element of the work of the charity. We’re based near the IMO in central London so well placed for shipping firms as well. We are also always seeking new ways of supporting seafarers. Following COVID-19 it has become very evident that seafarers are key workers and face very difficult working conditions. Our learning programmes are specifically designed to help them progress their careers and we now have a well-developed mentoring programme to support those who want to leave the sea and come ashore.


What is Learn@Sea?

Simply put, it is online learning for personal development and accredited qualifications. We believe seafarers deserve access to life-enhancing education wherever they are in the world. Our Learn@Sea platform offers practical courses that can be studied anywhere at any time and for a very reasonable cost. For example, English can be difficult, especially when you’re away from home and working long hours, but they are essential subjects if you want to get promoted, move ashore, or develop other skills for your career. Alternatively, we also started the LEARN@SHORE series. If you are looking to further your maritime career shoreside then we have an eclectic range of courses to help refine or develop your skillset for a job role ashore. Our range covers everything from fundamental core subjects to sector specific commercial shipping courses – Marine Insurance, Port Management, Tanker Chartering and Shipping Law for example.


What is the MSSC’s involvement with Apprenticeships?

The Marine Society and Sea Cadets is a government approved training provider specialising in marine and outdoor apprenticeships. Whether you are an employer looking to take on an apprentice or train your existing staff or an aspiring apprentice looking for the right training opportunity, you can find all the relevant information on our website. MSSC Apprenticeships include; Workboat Crewmember, Officer of the Watch (Near Coastal), Marina and Boatyard Operative, Outdoor Activity Instructor, Port Operative, and Port Agent.


What can you say about volunteering with MSSC?

Please sign up!! We can only meet demand for Sea Cadet places where we have the volunteers. We have a well-structured training programme in place for volunteers, previous experience not necessary although by nature, we do attract those coming from a naval or maritime background. It is very rewarding, and you get lots of boating opportunities including aboard our offshore fleet of power and sail vessels.

Member Profile: Ben Pym, EMS

Danielle met with Ben Pym to find out what the story is behind new-start, south coast business ‘EMS’;


Can you tell us about Engineered Marine Systems?

Engineered Marine Systems (EMS) is based in Southampton, UK. We specialise in marine systems design, working with naval architects, shipyards, OEMs, owners, and operators. Our business offering is split to three areas. We do vessel wide systems design in 2D and 3D. Covering mechanical,
electrical, domestic, and hydraulic disciplines with Class compliance, production detail and Bill of Materials for shipyard installation. We also design and manufacture a range of mechanical products, such as actuating platforms, doors, anchor systems in both the leisure and commercial sector. And
we’re a Palfinger Marine Crane dealer in the UK supporting operators in technical sales, service, and maintenance.


What is your role within the Company?

I founded EMS in 2017 and have continued as Managing Director of the company. A lot of my time is taken up with running the company and overseeing the various projects we have in progress at any given time. But I still get to do some design work – which is great because that is what I enjoy.


What is your career background?

I’ve always been around boats, racing dinghies through the RYA squad system as a junior and youth and later racing and maintaining race yachts in my teens and through university. I studied Naval Architecture at Solent University, after which I worked as Systems Design Engineer for a company
who specialised in the design and installation of bespoke performance yacht systems for the grandprix end of the market. I was fortunate enough to be involved in some cutting-edge projects with enormously varied requirements, but it was all about one thing, performance. Making the boats
lighter, faster, stronger and more capable to give the edge on the racecourse. That ethos, although often in the commercial sector so slightly different, has remained in the delivery of our design and products for our customers today.


What excites you most about your job?

The people I get to work with. Our customers come to us because they want their vessel to be the best in the fleet. Whether it’s our Nav Arc clients, vessel operators or shipyards, they’ve made an active decision to invest in design as a result they typically get a superior product. We get to work
with the client direct to better understand their requirements and work with them to deliver a complete solution. It’s been fantastic sharing the 3D systems model with operators for example, some of whom have not seen this maturity in design, and who can see exactly where equipment is
positioned in engine rooms, tech spaces, around walkways to ensure they have clear access and good service space on their new vessel. It’s 21st century shipbuilding!


What are your hobbies outside of work?

I still sail as much as I can in our 1958 Firefly dinghy. I’m training for a marathon at the end of the year, and when not sailing or running I’m maintaining and driving (when it’s in one piece) my 1957 Austin A35.


What has Engineered Marine Systems achieved so far?

We’ve achieved a strong business growth since 2017 and continued to invest and develop our design team. Looking forward and we’re keen to support more customers across the commercial marine sector. We achieved our ISO9001 LRQA Management System certification earlier this year in the
interest of improving our business processes. We took on the Palfinger dealership 2021 and have invested in training of our team to better support our customer base.

We’ve been involved in a number of forward-thinking projects across hybrid CTV’s, methanol projects, decarbonisation studies and defence demonstrator projects. We’ve also been fortunate enough support project further afield in the US and Asia workboat markets.


What are your goals for Engineered Marine Systems?

To continue to offer forward thinking, high-quality, elegant design solutions that fundamentally improve the user experience, operational efficiency, reduce build time, and contribute to long term more sustainable operation!


Why did you decide to become a member of The Workboat Association?

A large portion of our projects are in the workboat sector, so its natural fit. As a relatively young company we want to raise our profile and meet likeminded people in the industry. We also have a lot to offer technically on the journey of decarbonisation of the industry. Environmental
sustainability will be systems led, and we’re working on several projects bringing solutions to the marine sector which we look forward to sharing.


How do you feel The Workboat Association can benefit you?
We’ll look to attend as many WA events throughout the year as possible to meet others in the network and we’ll have the opportunity share our technical experience, contributing to the direction and improvements in the sector.

MCA Public Consultation on Grandfather rights for Domestic Passenger Vessels

An MCA consultation is now open on “Grandfather rights” for domestic passenger vessels (MGN 627)


The consultation seeks your views on changes to Marine Guidance Note (MGN) 627(M) which provides and overview of the changes made by the Merchant Shipping (Safety Standards for Passenger Ships on Domestic Voyages) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2022 (“the 2022 Regulations”) (sometimes colloquially known as the “Grandfather Rights Regulations”) and its associated Marine Notices. MGN 627(M) itself formed part of this legislative package (“the package”).


Member Profile: Adrian Birkin, Vulkan Industries

Following the inaugural WA golf day, Adrian Birkin spoke with us to tell us more about the man behind the UK business


Can you tell us about Vulkan?
Vulkan is one of 21 subsidiaries of the Vulkan group, Vulkan is family owned and market
leader in couplings for ships with approximately 1400 people worldwide. Currently there are
13 of us in the UK with plans to add more this year and next, taking us to 18 in the UK.

What is your role within the Company?
I am the Managing Director.

What is your career background?
Before Vulkan I wasn’t involved with the Marine industry – I had been working in the
industrial background and looked after EMEA region For Fenner European Region for Pix and
then before Vulkan I set up Ringfeder in the UK.

What excites you most about your job?
Something different everyday with the thrill of growing and winning business.

What are your hobbies outside of work?
I am a football coach and have just finished the season winning the league and cup.

What has Vulkan achieved so far?
Vulkan is now double the size since joining.

What are your goals for Vulkan next year?
To be triple the size from when I started in 2019.

Why did you decide to become a member of The Workboat Association?
Martin Jackson of PME told us we should join as we work closely with him. Vulkan in the UK
was and is prominent on the larger ships, but we want to grow and see the opportunities in
workboats. It is probably the biggest growth area for the UK Marine sector.

How do you feel The Workboat Association can benefit you?
You help us make some new contacts and generally meet the right people as we did at the
recent dinner and hopefully on your Golf Day.



Anger at Seawork over Workboat Code 3

Anger over MCA coding rules



Anger at MCA consultation process spills over at conference – with accusations that the MCA is not communicating over coding that could have disastrous consequences for small workboats.

There was standing room only at the UK’s Maritime & Coastguard Authority (MCA) Workboat Code 3 update presentation at Seawork as the Workboat Association teetered close to expressing a vote of no confidence in the UK’s statutory body.
Something of a showdown with industry stakeholder groups was widely predicted and nothing draws the crowds more than a regulatory update that could threaten significant operator costs.
As part of the MCA’s system for designing new regulations, although we learned not actually a statutory component of it, the body includes a Technical Working Group in the early stages of the consultation process, to ensure that the regulations are realistic and workable for the people who ultimately will need to code and operate vessels under them.

Opinions vary as to precisely what happened with this working group in 2022, but things clearly did not go well. Kerrie Forster, CEO of the UK’s trade body the Workboat Association, who was a member of the group, recalls it as a substantial breakdown of the group as multiple key members left the process in protest concerning the direction that the MCA was taking the new regulations in, particularly the plans for applying the new regulations to vessels already operating under older codes.
“I have to report to the wider industry that many original members of the working group stopped attending throughout the process, due to the disagreement with the process,” he said. “And the draft was delivered by a small skeleton group of industry and small commercial vessel experts together with the MCA Codes team.”

The MCA’s Code Vessel Lead, Rob Taylor, remembers it slightly differently, citing the unexpected length of the process and some members’ dissatisfaction that it was taking place via remote conferencing, but did corroborate the fact that a number of members left the process leaving the working group ’a little thinner’ than the MCA would have liked.

This was all in the second half of 2022, and was further underlined by a huge response from the industry to the MCA’s online consultation, with MCA responses to these queries, it is claimed, often resulting in disappointing holding replies and scant information that some commentators suggested indicated that the MCA was struggling under workload issues. WA has stated that the public consultation of Workboat Code 3 received one of (if not the) largest feedback from any UK domestic maritime legislation to date.
The MCA is certainly in an unenviable position and responding to unexpectedly massive volumes of feedback clearly isn’t coming at a good time for them. Both the Workboat Code update and their other current significant body of work, an update to the SCV (Small Commercial Vessel) code, are un-shuntable statutory pieces of work that have fallen concurrently at the MCA’s feet.

Question Time
The MCA’s Rob Taylor presented some tweaks to the process, and another minor extension to timelines to a conference room bursting at the seams.
As is often the case at a good conference, the presentation was all of the expected party-line fodder, with the real meat in the sandwich coming in the shape of the questions that followed.
Kerrie Forster began the questions with a long and pre-prepared set of questions/statement citing the Workboat Association’s (WA) issues, and was followed up by several experts, particularly from Certifying Authorities who also believed their issues with Workboat Code 3 are not being adequately addressed.

Of the several issues expressed by these industry stakeholders, a major one is the lack of clarity on how workboats operating under earlier codes such as Brown Code can meet the updated code without, in certain cases, prohibitively expensive structural work. If this is the case, part of the issue was that this was not being adequately communicated to the industry.

The MCA has estimated the cost of changes to existing vessels to meet the new code at £800,000 for the entire UK workboat fleet, but the WA suggests that this is miles short of the mark with the overall fleet cost as upwards of £1 billion. Kerrie Forster even predicts that a single vessel requiring structural work such as repositioned and additional bulkheads or lined tanks could attract a bill north of the MCA’s mooted £800k- for a single vessel. The massive discrepancy, as explained by WA, is due to some significant omissions on the MCA’s part.

One simplified example Kerrie cites is that the new code in some cases may stipulate a larger size and weight for the vessel’s main anchor. WA says that the MCA has just calculated the price of an anchor for such an upgrade, but the WA has factored in the potential cost of engineering consultancy, reconfiguring chain sizing, windlass capability, anchor locker enlargement, time in dry dock, ie, the total cost of ‘a heavier anchor’.
If these are the sort of errors that have been made this is a major attack on the MCA’s credibility from a key industry body, as it suggests a fundamental lack of practical knowledge within the MCA of how workboats are built, refitted and operated.

Kerrie’s statement posed the following asks:
1) There needs to be a correct Demin Amis Assessment made and publicly shared, otherwise parliamentarians and public are being knowledgably, falsely informed, to make their judgement.
2) The new draft should be shared for further comment publicly or back to the TWG to steer the direction of the content, following the first round, and unexpectedly large feedback from the public consultation.
3) The final draft needs to be shared with industry before becoming law, to allow industry time to react to the incoming changes
Until these changes are made, for the first time since our origination, we do not stand behind the UK flag and new workboat code as it currently stands.
“Taking a workboat from Brown Code up to Workboat Code 3 presents a seriously steep hill for some vessel owners and operators to climb,” said Ben Sutcliffe, chairman of certifying authority YDSA.
“The MCA has calculated upgrade costs primarily from Workboat Code 2 to 3, but this actually represents the minority of the fleet. Where Brown Code consisted of 70-odd pages, workboat Code 3 is over 200 pages. It’s also littered with more complex and daunting language and double negatives that almost look designed to trip up or confuse the unwary operator.”
The MCA was quick to counter that there is a grace period, so that vessels could continue to operate under their existing coding until it runs out, but ultimately vessels being recoded after the end of December 2023 would need to meet the new system of regulation.

New normal?
Stuart Gladwell, CEO of SCMS, another certifying authority, asked why the MCA had not engaged the certifying authorities (CAs) more closely in the process. According to Gladwell, the CAs had more specific detailed sector knowledge concerning key aspects that the new framework seeks to address, such as un-crewed operations and future fuels, and had seen the MCA was struggling in some areas and had offered to take on some of the work, to no avail. In short, the CAs could see the MCA was drowning, had offered to help, but to no avail.
Gladwell also expressed his concerns about the lack of communication concerning his organisation’s specific queries to the MCA concerning Workboat Code 3. He had two outstanding issues that were timing out fast and potentially going to attract cost to rectify that the MCA was not responding on. One has been outstanding for several months, and relates to regulations that are coming in fairly imminently. Gladwell concluded with a rather pointed question that dangled in the air for a few moments: “Is this lack of communication the new normal for the MCA?”

Summing up
The mic returned to Kerrie Forster for what became an impactful summing up of the industry’s issues with the code, and before we look at what he said it’s important to consider WA’s past relationship with the MCA.
The WA originated in 1994, as a representative of industry to formulate the original Workboat Code, Brown Code. Since then the WA has been a key global ambassador of the UK flag and the Workboat Code.
WA has been on numerous MCA working groups since and is a powerful industry body. Not only did Forster “beg” the MCA to recommence the consultation process from scratch with more complete stakeholder engagement, he also reminded the MCA and the audience that part of the WA’s remit was to offer advice to its members concerning flagging and coding.
For the first time in its history, WA was not only having to consider whether it should continue to sit on MCA working groups, but also whether to even continue advising its membership to code vessels under the UK flag state. While it wasn’t quite an official WA statement of no confidence in the MCA, it was just about as close to this bombshell as you could get and clearly suggests some stormy waters ahead for UK workboat industry.

WA Seawork Dinner Quiz!

Smiles and good food at this year’s annual WA Seawork Dinner


It was a fantastic night for the 150 people that attended ‘The Grand’ in Southampton on 14th June. As ever, the food was delicious and the entertainment ‘The Illusionists’ were brilliant!

Thank you very much to the evening’s sponsors: CTRL Marine Solutions, ShipOwners Club and Campbell Johnston Clark.

We can’t tell you how they made the lady disappear 3 times, but we can tell you who won the ‘bragging rights only’ annual quiz (and what the answers are)!!

This years winner is….


Dave McNaughton, Anna & John Percival-Harris, Bobby Mitchell, Michel Radjiman, Sarah Leonard, Bert de Ruiter, Noor Kimmit, Susi Miller

Congratulations, you win one of the workboat sector’s most coveted prizes, the chance to gloat to everyone else that you are the most intelligent.

Team Points
13 46
5 41
TMS 40
Anonymous 40
12 38
15 38
3 37
6 37
11 36
Jaws 34
9 33
4 22

Try the quiz for yourself here:

>>>WA Seawork Quiz Questions<<<

Answers to the quiz are here:

>>>>>WA Seawork Quiz 2023 Answers<<<<<