Keeping your boat afloat: Everything you need to know about bilge pump types

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Having a reliable water pumping system is essential for any boat. Bilge pumps are the first line of defense against unwanted water buildup inside a boat. From small recreational vessels to large cargo ships, every type of boat needs a proper water pumping system to keep it afloat and operating safely.

Therefore, today we want to talk about the bilge pumps, the difference between them and other types of water pumps that are also on boats such as saltwater pumps, the types of bilge pumps there are, we will name them and explain some of them briefly.

Difference between bilge pump and saltwater pump

The main difference between a bilge pump and a raw water pump lies in their function and application on a vessel:

  1. Bilge pump: 

The main function of a boat bilge pump is to remove unwanted water that has entered the interior of a boat. These pumps are used to keep the boat compartment dry and prevent water from accumulating due to rain, leaks, waves or other sources of unwanted water. Bilge pumps are therefore used to remove fresh or salt water that has entered the boat, depending on the situation. They can be found on both freshwater and marine vessels.

  1. Salt water pump:

Saltwater pumps are used to take water from the sea and use it for various applications aboard the vessel. This can include engine cooling, refrigeration systems, pressure washing water supply, fire extinguishing systems and more.

In short, while a bilge pump is used to remove unwanted water from inside the vessel, a saltwater pump is used to take water from the ocean and use it for various onboard applications. Both are critical in a marine environment, but their functions and uses are different.

Type of bilge pumps

Choosing the right bilge pump depends on the type and size of the boat, as well as the conditions in which you will be boating. It is important to select a pump that can effectively handle the amount of water that could enter the boat and keep it safe at all times.

  • Manual dewatering pump
  • Diaphragm dewatering pumps
  • Centrifugal dewatering pumps
  • Vane dewatering pumps
  • Screw dewatering pumps
  • Turbine dewatering pumps
  • Compressed air dewatering pumps
  • Hydraulic power bilge pumps
  • Electric submersible dewatering pumps

Among all the types of bilge pumps, we are going to focus on the electric submersible pumps, since they are very efficient and suitable for medium to large size boats.

Below we will discuss the advantages of submersible bilge pumps, as well as important considerations to take into account if we install them on our boat.


  1. Efficiency: They are highly efficient in pumping large volumes of water compared to surface pumps.
  2. Automation: They can be equipped with level sensors for automatic operation, reducing the need for human intervention.
  3. Design: Their compact design makes them ideal for small spaces.
  4. Versatility: They can be used in a variety of applications and environments where water removal is required.


  1. Maintenance: They require regular maintenance to ensure optimum performance, including cleaning the impeller and checking seals and electrical connections.
  2. Clogging prevention: It is important to prevent foreign objects from clogging the impeller, which could damage the pump.
  3. Electrical safety: Electrical safety regulations should be strictly followed when installing and operating submersible dewatering pumps to avoid electrical hazards.

In short, submersible bilge pumps are an essential part of a vessel’s safety system, helping to keep it afloat and safe by removing unwanted water from the interior. Their submersible design and the automation of some of them make them a critical investment for any vessel, be it a pleasure craft or a cargo ship.

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