A 21st Century Redefinition Of Bilge Pumps



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Oil and Fuel Detector with Smart Bilge Pump Switch

Merriam-Webster defines “bilge” as stale or worthless remarks or ideas.

The world’s boaters know differently.

The U.S. alone has 15 million recreational vessels; most equipped with automatic or manual bilge pumps intended to discharge water from inside a vessel directly into a waterway. Often, oil or fuel is accidentally discharged, causing spills contaminating the surrounding waterways and habitat. The spills demand daily responses by the U.S. Coast Guard, law enforcement and civil patrols. An untold loss of time and money is caused by these spills. Fines, clean-up costs and environmental damage are all harmful effects.

It happens more or less like clockwork:

  • Around midnight, a private sportfisher leaves its berth and a bilge pump light on the dash indicates it’s auto-pumping the bilge;
  • Or at 12:02 a.m. out of a commercial port a work boat is getting underway, pumping out its bilges, possibly discharging a mixture of oil, fuel and water;
  • Or 12:03 a.m., upwards of thousands of private yachts with automatic bilge pumps in as many marinas and harbors dotting coasts throughout the United States begin pumping, with water and potential oil, fuel and other contaminants going overboard.

The mixing of water and contaminants is nothing new. In the 1500’s, the wooden sailing ships leaked like sieves and bilge pumps were necessary to pump water out to keep them afloat. Those simple, handmade wooden affairs were in use until 1840, when the first metal ones were developed and mass produced.

Fast forward to the 20th Century. By this time, the pump’s development had reached the electric stage and ultimately was equipped with a variety of “float switches” which became the standard, with minor modifications, for the past 40 years.

Then, approximately a year ago, Ken Franke, former San Diego Harbor Police Lieutenant and currently President of Sportfishing Association of California, discussed the problem of oil and spillage from vessels in San Diego Harbor with his long-time friend, Zdravko or “Z” Divjak, owner of Z-Communications Inc., a leader in manufacturing technology.

Franke explained that there didn’t seem to be a “fail safe” system to monitor the accidental spillage in vessels, resulting in both fines for the owners and unnecessary contamination, plus expensive cleanup by local authorities. He summed the problem up with a question to Z, “Is there a possibility that one of your teams could develop something to solve the problem?”

The complexity intrigued Divjak. Could a solution be developed in collaboration with the marine industry … a reliable, long lasting bilge pump sensor? The question begged for a solution that they all understood could have a remarkable impact on international, as well as on local maritime operations. Divjak volunteered to share Franke’s concerns with one of his development teams and when he did, it launched an ongoing search for a practical solution to an age-old problem.

Ultimately, the development team assembled technology with the targeted benchmarks to create a product line that offered a practical solution to the technology.

And shortly, his newly-formed Blue Guard Innovations released the BG-One Sensor, a sensor with worldwide positive implications in the protection of the earth’s oceans and waterways from oil and fuel spills.

The new sensor is wired into any existing bilge pump system and replaces the old style bilge float. When fuel or oil is detected, the pump is turned off. Simple!

There are no moving parts, greatly increasing the reliability of the sensor and saving the boater money and time in replacing floats. The sensor reduces voltage spikes when the pump is activated often significantly extending the life of the bilge pump. The wiring and housing are commercial grade and geared toward surviving operations in the tough marine environment. The sensor allows pumping of water, but stops the pump when it detects a fluorocarbon. This results in no spills, no USCG responses, no fines, and no environmental damage. It contains the oil/fuel in the bilge where it can be properly removed.

Without moving parts or float switches that can fail, the BG-One automatically turns off the bilge pump when oil/fuel is detected

– before a spill –when connected to almost any bilge pump on the market today.

Complexity has been reduced to simplicity: When the sensor detects only water, it will turn the bilge pump ON. When it detects oil/fuel, it will turn the bilge pump OFF. With the precise oil/fuel detection accuracy of 1 mm (0.04 in), BG-One turns the bilge pump off, minimizing boat owners’ cleanup liability while extending the life and reliability of the bilge pumps.

If oil is on top of the water and the water continues to rise as it is entering the bilge, the sensor will then detect the water and turn the bilge pump ON. The BG-One will selectively pump out the water, but will not pump out the oil or fuel, preventing the vessel from accumulating water and/or costly oil and fuel spillage.

The unit also provides two additional user-selectable modes of operation that may be configured through the BG-One Sensor Config App, providing the user with additional flexibility for different circumstances.

With IP-67 rated durability, the BG-One is engineered and constructed with non-corrosive ABS plastic. The sensor comes with a heavy-duty mounting bracket to attach to a bulkhead or frame with 316 stainless steel screws. The five wires are marine grade, 14-gauge, and 6-inches long to attach to a BG-JBox – Blue Guard Junction Box mounted high on a bulkhead, keeping connections dry.

According to Divjak, the BG-One Sensor is the first of a collection of sensors and associated control panel and junction boxes to be introduced.

For boaters and boats, it appears to be a practical and reliable solution to an age-old problem.

Sensor Introduction


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