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MGN 57 (M+F)

Operating, Maintaining and Testing Magnetic

Note to Shipowners, Shiprepairers, Masters, Navigation Officers, Fishing Vessel Owners and
Skippers, Compass Makers and Compass Adjusters

This Note supersedes Notice M1631


This Note reminds all seafarers how to operate, maintain and test magnetic compasses.

Key Points:-

• The Owner and Master are responsible for compass maintenance.

• Monitor compass performance frequently.

• Adjustments and repairs should only be carried out by a certified compass adjuster.

1. This Notice offers guidance on the operation, Responsibility for Maintenance

maintenance and testing of magnetic compasses.
4. The Owner and the Master are responsible for
Requirements for Compasses ensuring that compasses on their ships are
maintained in good working order.
2. Generally, requirements for compasses on
seagoing ships (other than fishing vessels) are
When to Adjust Compasses
given in the Merchant Shipping (Navigational
Equipment) Regulations, 1993, as amended.
Ships to which the Regulations do not apply 5. Magnetic compasses should be adjusted
should meet requirements as far as is practicable. when:
Further advice and information is available in the
Survey of Merchant Shipping Navigational (a) they are first installed;
Equipment Installations: Instructions for the
Guidance of Surveyors. (b) they become unreliable;

3. Requirements for fishing vessels with a (c) the ship undergoes structural repairs or
registered length of 12 metres or more are given alterations that could affect its permanent and
in the Fishing Vessels (Safety Provisions) Rules induced magnetism;
1975 and the Instructions for the Guidance of
Surveyors of Fishing Vessels. Smaller fishing (d) electrical or magnetic equipment close to the
vessels should make every effort to meet the compass is added, removed or altered; or,
same requirements.

(e) a period of two years has elapsed since the 11. If a qualified compass adjuster is unavailable
last adjustment and a record of compass and the Master considers it necessary then
deviations has not been maintained, or the adjustments may be made by a person holding a
recorded deviations are excessive or when the Certificate of Competency (Deck Officer) Class 1
compass shows physical defects. (Master Mariner). The compass must be re-
adjusted by a qualified compass adjuster at the
Effects of Changes in Magnetism During the next available opportunity.
Life of a Ship
12. The date of any adjustment and other details
6. Because the magnetism of a new ship can be should be noted in the compass deviation book.
particularly unstable, the performance of The position of correctors should be recorded in the
magnetic compasses should be monitored compass book and on deviation cards. Because the
carefully during the early life of a ship, and distances from the co-efficients B and C correctors
adjustments made if necessary. to the standard compass card and to the
transmitting element are different, a transmitting
7. Masters are advised that it is essential to magnetic compass will be overcompensated
check the performance of magnetic compasses resulting in an error, which can be as much as
particularly after: 2 1/2 degrees and cannot be corrected. Separate
deviation cards should be prepared for the
(a) carrying cargoes which have magnetic standard compass and the transmitting magnetic
properties; compass repeater by comparing headings.

(b) using electromagnetic lifting appliances to 13. Repairs should only be made by a compass
load or discharge; manufacturer or other competent person using
proper test facilities. When the work is finished
(c) a casualty in which the ship has been subject the repairer should supply the Owner or Master
to severe contact or electrical charges; or, with a certificate specifying that the work was
done in accordance with the requirements of
(d) the ship has been laid up or has been lying ISO 2269, which sets out international standards
idle - even a short period of idleness can lead to for magnetic compasses.
serious deviations, especially for small vessels.
Portable Equipment that may interfere with
8. Further to 7(b), the retentive magnetism can Compasses
alter a ship’s magnetism, making compasses
unreliable. However, a large amount of the 14. Masters and Officers are advised that
magnetism induced by an electromagnet may portable electrical equipment (e.g. radios and
subsequently decay so immediate readjustment is tape recorders) or items made of steel can affect
not advised. Every effort should be made to the performance of a compass. Care should be
determine the compass deviation. taken to ensure that such items are kept away
from the compass position.
Monitoring Compass Performance
Spare Bowl
9. Compass performance should be monitored
by frequently recording deviations in a compass 15. If a spare magnetic compass bowl is required,
deviation book. This may show the need for then it should be carefully stowed together with
repair, testing or adjustment. In addition, its gimbal units away from the bridge structure
compasses should be inspected occasionally by a so that they are unaffected by any casualty
competent officer or compass adjuster. disabling the bridge.

Adjustments and Repairs Transmitting Magnetic Compasses (TMC)

10. In the UK, all adjustments should be made by 16. If a new or existing standard magnetic
a compass adjuster who holds a Certificate of compass is modified to provide a transmission
Competency as Compass Adjuster issued by the output then each device must be individually
UK Government. certified or re-certified with the transmitting

element in place. Re-certification of modified 19. If a transmitting magnetic compass provides
existing compasses should be made, with the heading information, i.e. it is read by the
transmitting element attached to the compass helmsman at the main steering position, then the
bowl. In the UK, the testing authorities are: spare bowl must be fitted with a transmitting
element, and individual testing is required.
Defence Test and Evaluation Organisation, Alternatively, if heading information is provided
Compass Test Centre, by the reflected image of a standard compass or a
Land Magnetic Facility, separate steering compass, and a transmitting
Portland Bill, compass is fitted voluntarily to provide a repeater
Portland, facility to navigation equipment, then the spare
Dorset, DT5 2JT. (Formerly the Admiralty bowl does not require a separate transmitting
Compass Observatory), and element.

John Lilley & Gillie Ltd,

Clive Street,
North Shields,
Tyne & Wear, NE29 6LF.

17. Modifications should be made by an

experienced compass technician, who should MSAS (A)
ensure that the transmitting element is
compatible with the binnacle. The performance of Marine Safety Agency
the equipment cannot be relied upon until the Spring Place
compass has been re-certified (as described 105 Commercial Road
above) and adjustments have been made by a SOUTHAMPTON
certified compass adjuster. SO15 1EG

18. Ancillary equipment included in the Tel: 01703-329138

modifications (e.g. electronic units, displays and Fax: 01703-329204
power supplies) should be type tested to establish
safe distances from the compass. In particular, care © Crown Copyright 1998
should be taken to avoid the effect on the compass
of spurious radio frequency transmissions. MNA 139/8/35
Guidance can be found in the IMO Resolution
A.694(17). February 1998

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