They seem like a cumbersome item to have onboard, but if you're preparing for an offshore challenge, cruise or race then you'll be required to carry one of these high capacity emergency bilge pumps.

As someone who has prepared my own boat for Category 1, finding the best emergency bilge pumps that comply but are also easy to use has resulted in scouring shops and online stores for the right salvage pump for my purposes.

If you have ever taken the paddle log out for cleaning whilst your boat is in the water, you’ll know that the speed water can fill a bilge area from a small hole in the hull can be alarming. Now imagine that water was coming in and you can’t stem the flow until you reach safe haven or calmer waters.

You’ll be very glad of a high capacity emergency bilge pump keeping your boat from sinking or buying you time to be rescued.

According to category 1 offshore regulations you must have an emergency bilge pump in addition to other fixed bilge pumps onboard. The regs are as follows:

Emergency Pumps
either fixed or portable pump to remove ingress water from any compartment.
This pump shall:
have a minimum rated capacity of 200 l/min*
be operated by battery, main engine powered or a separate engine
if portable electric-powered, power cables to be terminated with alligator clips
have sufficient hose to discharge directly overboard or into the cockpit.
A combination of permanently installed and portable pumps may be combined to meet the above requirement

*200litres per minute is equivalent to 2639 UK gallons per hour or 3170 US gallons per hour. 

Editors choices at a glance

Seaflo 4700 GPH 12v Heavy Duty Electric Bilge Pump – Best emergency bilge pumps: 12v

Johnson 4000GPH Heavy Duty Bilge Pump 12V or 24V – Best emergency bilge pumps: 24v

Honda WX15 Portable Pump – Best emergency bilge pumps: petrol powered



Rule 56S Fully Automatic 4000 Submersible pump 12V

Specifications: Connections: For 50mm (2″) bore hose. Dimensions: 235mm high, 135mm base diameter. Fuse Size: 25(amp) Output: Up to 252 litres/minute (55 gallons/minute). Max. recommended discharge head 4m. Fully automated bilge pump with computerised operation. Quick release inlet strainer for rapid cleaning. Ignition protected. integrated auto switch, manual override, Dimensions: L:19.00 x H:28.00 x W:16.00cm, Weight: 3.10 Kg

Reasons to Buy:
4000 GPH flow rate complies with cat 1 offshore regulations for pumping capacity.
Automatic Function with override.
Rule is a trusted brand in the marine industry known for producing reliable and durable bilge pumps, ensuring a certain level of quality.

Reasons to Avoid:
Check your boat’s electrical system can support the amperage demands of this pump

The Rule 56S is a powerful yet compact unit, submersible and with a 2inch bore hose this thing has some serious output. Drop the pump into the area of water you are wanting to remove, be that a bilge area, tank, locker, engine room etc and lead the hose overboard via the cockpit or other external means. The pressure form this might be too much for some cockpit scuppers to handle and they might not drain quickly enough, so make sure the hose is securely draining away from the boat. You can operate this one automatically so it can be used as a fixed unit in an engine bay, or it can be a roving portable unit.

Buy it Now

With each product is a ‘Buy it now’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.

Seaflo 3500 GPH 12v Bilge Pump

Specifications: Flow Rate: 3700 gallons per hour (GPH), Voltage: 12 volts, Amperage: Around 12-15 amps, 40mm hose bore

Reasons to Buy:

3700 GPH flow rate is cat 1 compiant.
Seaflo is known for producing reliable marine equipment.
Submersible Design

Reasons to Avoid:

While not as high as larger capacity pumps in this guide, it still draws a significant amount of power. Verify that your boat’s electrical system can handle the amperage.

The Seaflo pumps offer really great value for their pumping capacity.

The 3500 GPH rate is the equivalent of 220 litres per minute. This is very much like the one I use on my own boat. I have a solid hose running from mine to go out of the companionway and out into the cockpit. To be fully complaint with Cat 1 regulations, pumps should be fitted with crocodile clips. Mine has a 12v plug attached to it and a dedicated emergency 12v bilge pump socket by the chart table.  I have used mine in anger during some particularly bad weather crossing the bay of Biscay and we had some waves to bail out. it worked very nicely as the pump was small enough to fit into my locker where the water accumulates.

The coiled roving hose takes up quite a lot of space when it is stowed so bear that in mind if you choose a hose designed not to collapse.

Buy it Now

Seaflo 4700 GPH 12v Heavy Duty Electric Bilge Pump

Best emergency bilge pumps: 12v

Specifications: Flow Rate: 4700 gallons per hour (GPH), Voltage: 12 volts, Around 15-20 amps, 2″ (50mm) hose bore

Reasons to Buy:
The pump’s 4700 GPH flow rate is suitable for larger vessels or situations where substantial water needs to be removed quickly and is well over the Cat 1 minimum requirement of 200 litres per minute.
Submersible Design

Reasons to Avoid:
The pump’s high capacity also means it draws more power. Ensure your boat’s electrical system can handle the amperage demands.
The larger size may not fit in smaller boat bilges or lockers

If you want something  a little bigger with larger pumping capacity but still easy to move around, then this very high capacity pump is a great choice.

Given the 2″ or 50mm hose bore size, then you’ll likely want to team this up with a flat hose that can be rolled out and secured overboard. A long section of non collapsible hose will be hard to stow and heavy to handle in an emergency.

Suitable for boats with larger battery banks or onboard generators to charge as you pump.

Buy it now

Johnson 4000GPH Heavy Duty Bilge Pump 12V or 24V

Best emergency bilge pumps: 24v

Specifications: Flow Rate: 4000 gallons per hour (GPH), Voltage: 12 or 24 volts, Around 10-12 amps, Hose size 1.5″ or 2″, Max diameter 121 MM – 4.8″, Max Height 216 MM – 8.5″, weight without hose, 2.45 KG – 5.40 LBS

Reasons to Buy:
The Johnson pumps have options for both 12v and 24v versions of their pumps. The 4000GPH model gives high enough capacity to meet the Cat 1 regs for emergency pumping.
Reliable Brand: Johnson pumps are known for their reliability and durability in marine environments, offering a level of trust in the product’s performance.

Reasons to Avoid:
As per all other pumps in high capacity category, check that your power system can actually cope with it.

The Johnson Pump, as with all of the other pumps above this one are submersible. You lower the pump into the area you need to drain and the hose coming out will have to be taken overboard or to a fast draining cockpit. The smaller diameter hose can be a non collapisible type, but if you opt for a 2″ pipe you might want to use a flat hose for easier stowage.

Bear in mind the size of the lockers you might need to fit this pump into to pump water out. Will they accommodate the diameter or height? The Johnson pump has a clip off bottom strainer that can be quickly removed for cleaning.

Buy it Now


Honda WX15 Portable Pump

Best emergency bilge pumps: Petrol powered

Specifications: Capacity: Up to 240 GPM (Gallons Per Minute) 908 litres per minute. Features: Portable, gasoline-powered, lightweight, and easy to start. Self-priming and efficient. Length (mm) 325
Width (mm) 275, Height (mm) 375, Dry weight (kg) 9

Reasons to Buy:
High capacity, versatility, and suitable for various applications beyond marine use.

Reasons to Avoid:
Requires fuel and regular maintenance. Heavy compared to 12v electric pumps.

The petrol powered Honda is a portable salvage pump than can handle about 240litres per minute. It doesn’t rely on your power system to power up as it is petrol powered. Obviously You’ll need to carry some petrol onboard instead.
This one isn’t submersible but instead requires two hoses. One semi rigid hose to be positioned in the water you need to remove and one flat hose for the water to go over the side/outside. This can be used for a host of pumping needs, and as a petrol powered engine it can be operated in remote areas without access to electricity. It does mean that operating it requires a little bit of extra thought to avoid being intoxicated with exhaust fumes. For old traditional wooden vessels this type of pump can be a real saver.

Buy it Now



Pacer Self-Priming Centrifugal Pump

Specifications: Capacity: Up to 255 GPM/965 Lpm, Self-priming, gasoline-powered, durable construction, and easy to transport. Inlet/outlet – 2″ NTP female, Suction lift – Up to 7.6m, Self-priming after initial prime ENGINE DATA: Make – Honda, Model – GX160, Power – 5.5Hp, Fuel capacity – 3.1 litres, Weight – 20 kg, Dimensions – L470 – W400 – H345 mm

Reasons to Buy:
High capacity, versatile, and suitable for various emergency salvage situations.

Reasons to Avoid:
Requires fuel, regular maintenance, and may be louder due to its gasoline engine.

The Pacer Centrifugal Pump powered by this Honda petrol engine is a high capacity powerful salvage pump capable to moving over 800 litres per minute!
It has capacity to lift water over 7m which is pretty useful if you have a larger vessel and need to move water up and out of a deep bilge.

This isn’t a submersible pump and requires a hose in as well as a hose out. the Hose in needs to be a reinforced type to avoid it collapsing under pressure of suction. The hose out would be a flat roll hose rather like a fire hose. This high capacity salvage pump is a small step up from the Honda pump above with some serious pumping capacity.

The Pacer pump is the grey lump on the end of the engine. it can be teamed up with other alternative engines or other methods of spinning it up.

Suitable for larger boats, this engine and pump combination weigh in at around 20kg or 44lbs.

Buy it now