Category: Guidance

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.

Event: How to manage Cyber Risk on Workboats

The Guidelines On Cyber Security Onboard Small Commercial Vessels

The WA has produced Guidelines On Cyber Security Onboard Small Commercial Vessels.

The guide aims to assist in the development of a proper cyber risk management strategy in accordance with relevant regulations and best practises on board a small commercial vessel with a focus on work processes, equipment, training, incident response and recovery management.

Download the guide for free here: The Guidelines On Cyber Security Onboard Small Commercial Vessels

Important Reminder: Training requirement changes for Workboat Code 2 vessels – 1st Jan 2022

As of 1st January 2022, all Master operating Workboat Code 2 vessels must have MCA approved Radar and Electronic Chart Plotter training.


Workboat Code 2, Annex 3;

-Quote –

2.11 Radar Training
In any vessel that carries radar, the Master and any member of the crew who is likely to use the radar is strongly recommended to undertake appropriate training e.g. the Small Ships Navigation and Radar Course, the MSQ unit ‘Use of Radar for Safe Navigation and Collision Avoidance on Domestic and Code Vessels’, or other course subsequently approved by the MCA. This strong recommendation becomes a requirement 3 years after the publication of this Code.

2.13 Electronic Chart Plotters Training
It is strongly recommended that training appropriate to the type of equipment on the vessel must be undertaken by the Master and any other crew member responsible for navigation. This strong recommendation becomes a requirement 3 years after publication of this code.
Note: the MSQ unit ‘Operate non-ECDIS marine Electronic Chart Systems’, developed by the NWA has been approved by the MCA as meeting this requirement.

– End quote –


Note: This does not apply to Brown Code or MGN 280 vessels. But, it does now apply to those vessels originally coded under the 2014 voluntary IWGT Standard – See section; Workboat Code 2, Annex 16.3

-Quote –

Existing vessels that are certificated under the Workboat Code Industry Working Group Technical Standard, published in 2014 (‘the 2014 Standard’), do not need to comply with the requirements in the rest of this Code, and may continue to operate under the 2014 Standard until their next due renewal examination after entry into force of the Workboat Code Edition 2, or three (3) years after entry into force date of the Workboat Code Edition 2, whichever date falls later. At the end of that period, they must phase-in to the requirements of the Workboat Code Edition 2 in full.

– End quote –


This transition date is similarly 1st January 2022.


Download Workboat Code 2 here from Gov.UK