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Solas Chapter VPanamaNote/Warning


The Merchant Marine Circular No. 138 from the PANAMA MARITIME AUTHORITY specifies guidelines for maintaining and testing Magnetic Compasses. Those guidelines are stated below

1. Application.

1. These guidelines apply to all ships irrespective of size, and navigation area.

2. Requirement.

1. The magnetic Compass is required under Chapter V, regulation 19, of the 2000 amendments to 1974 the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974. The Magnetic Compass must meet the standards developed by the


3. Responsibility of Maintenance.

1. It is the responsibility of the Owner/operator and the Master to ensure that compasses on their ships are maintained in good working order to the standards developed by the


4. When to Adjust Compasses.

1. Magnetic Compasses shall be adjusted when:

a) They are first installed or replaced

b) they become unreliable,

c) the ship undergoes structural repairs or alterations that could affect

its permanent and induced magnetism,

d) electrical magnetic equipment close to the compasses is added,

removed or altered,

e) a maximum period of one (1) year has elapsed since the date of the

last adjustment and record of compass deviations has not been

properly maintained or the record of deviations are excessive or

when the compass shows physical defects,

f) deviation exceeds five (5) degrees taking into account the variation

of the place and the method used.

5. Effect of changes in magnetism during the life of a ship.

1. Because the magnetism of a new ship can be particularly unstable, the performance of

magnetic compasses should be monitored carefully during the early life of a ship and

adjustments made if necessary.

2. Masters are advised that it is essential to check the performance of magnetic

compasses particularly:

a) Carrying cargoes which have magnetic properties;

b) Using electromagnetic lifting appliances to load or discharge;

c) A casualty in which the has been subject to severe contact or

electrical charges; or

d) The ship has laid up or has been lying idle – even a short period of

idleness can lead to serious deviations, especially for small vessels.

3. Further to 5.2(b), the retentive magnetic field can alter a ship’s magnetism, making

compasses unreliable. However, a large amount of the magnetism induced by an

electromagnetic equipment may subsequently decay; therefore immediate

readjustment is not advised. Every effort should be made to determine the compass


6. Monitoring Compass Performance

1. Frequent observation should be made to determine compass error. Compass

performance should be monitored by recording deviations in a compasses deviation

book. This may show the need for repair, testing or adjustment or if the records are

not correctly carried out.

7. Adjustment and repairs.

1. Adjustment must be made by a duly authorized compass adjuster. If a qualified and

certified compass adjuster is unavailable and the master considers it necessary, then

adjustments may be made by the Master, who should also have expertise as compass


2. The Administration of Panama may also accept the compass adjusters recognized by

one of the States members of SOLAS 74 Convention, who also must complete a

Compass adjustment course in a certified center that meets the International standards

developed by the Organization; Under no circumstances, the same person that

surveyed a vessel shall carry out the compass adjustment. The date of any adjustment

and other details should be noted in the compass deviation book.

3. The position of all compass correctors should be recorded in the compass deviation

book and on deviation cards.

4. The minimum distance between the magnetic compass and electrical panels or any

other electrical equipment such as: Radar’s, Gyro compasses, Radios etc. will be

determined by the manufacturer of those equipment’s, according to standards

developed by the Organization and shall be verified by the Flag State surveyors while

surveying the ship.

5. Separate deviation cards shall be prepared for the standards compass and the

transmitting magnetic compass repeater, if fitted, by comparing headings.

6. After the adjustment, the vessel must be provided with a certificate of compass

adjustment that must include the deviation table and this document must include a

least: the name of the vessel /IMO # / call letters / flag / place where the job is carried

out, name of the adjuster / stamp / sign; maker of the compass, sea and weather

conditions, method used, numerical and graphical results of deviation after correction.

7. Repairs should only be made by a compass manufacturer or other competent and

authorized company using proper test facilities. When the work is finished, the

repairer should supply the Owner or Master with a certificate specifying that the work

was carried out in accordance with the international standards for magnetic


8. Portable Equipment that may interfere with compasses.

1. Master and Officers are advised that portable electrical equipment (e.g. radios and

tape recorders or items made of steel can affect the performance of a compass. Care

should be taken to ensure that such items are kept away from the compass position

9. Spare Bowl.

1. If a spare magnetic compass bowl is required, then it should be carefully stowed

together with its gimbals units away from the bridge structure so that they are

unaffected by any casualty disabling the bridge.

10. Transmitting Magnetic Compasses (TMC).

1. If a new or existing standards magnetic compass is modified to provide a

transmission output then the device must be certified or re-certified with the

transmitting element in place.

2. Modifications should be made by an experienced compass technician, who shall

ensure that the transmitting element is compatible with the binnacle. The

performance of the equipment cannot be relied upon until the compass has been recertified

(as described above) and adjustment have been made by a compass adjuster.

3. Auxiliary equipment included in the modifications (e.g. electronic units, displays and

power supplies) should be type-tested to establish safe distances from the compass.

In particular, care should be taken to avoid the effect on the compass of spurious

radio frequency transmissions. For guidance, refer to IMO Resolution A.813 (19)

and Resolution A.694 (17)

If a transmitting magnetic compass provides heading information, i.e. it is read by the helmsman

at the main steering position, then the spare bowl must be fitted with a transmitting element, and

individual testing is required. Alternatively, if heading information is provided by the reflected

image of a standard compass periscope or by a separate steering compass, and a transmitting

compass is fitted voluntarily to provide a repeater facility to navigation equipment, then the

spare bowl not require a separate transmitting element.


May 2005;

Revised August 2009

Inquiries concerning the subject of this Circular or any request should be directed to:

Directorate General of Merchant Marine, New York Office

International Representative Office

6 West 48th Street, 11 floor

New York, NY 10036


Phone: ++1 (212) 869-6440

Fax: ++1 (212) 575-2285/2288


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