Marine Bilge Pumps & Pumping System – Emergency Bilge Suction


We have been talking about various types of emergency situations on board a ship. Needless to say some of the most dangerous situations arise not due to grounding or collision of ships (though they are risky too) but mainly could be due to those situation which either involve a fire or flooding. It is certainly interesting to note that the two of the five basic elements namely fire and water reign supreme in the marine world too. Sometimes the marine bilge pumps are not sufficient to deal with such situations and we require other measures as we shall see below.

Bilge Injection Valve

Both these types of emergencies (fire and flooding) involve the use/role of sea water. If there is a fire, sea water is the biggest resource of water available in the sea. Similarly if it involves flooding of the engine room, cargo spaces or any other place on the ship for that matter; you would again require pumping the sea water out of the ship. In both these cases you require pumps.

We have studied a lot about sea water pumps, marine bilge pumps and piping arrangement on ships including various types of valves. Now in this article we will study about another important valve which is used to take suction from the bilges in case of serious flooding and this is known as the emergency bilge injection valve. I suggest that you take a close look at the diagram below before actually going through the text, so that you can correlate the two and absorb it properly.

Bilge Injection Arrangement

So as you must have noticed, there are two valves in close proximity namely main injection valve and bilge injection valve. Both of them have their own independent controls. The diameter of the bilge injection valve is kept nearly 66% of the main valve diameter which draws water directly from the sea through the grid. This is a legal requirement that the diameter of this injection valve is at least 2/3 times the main suction, though it can be more also.

Hence the injection valve is an arrangement where the main sea chest can be bypassed in case of emergency so that instead of the sea, water gets drawn from within the ship itself.

There is a strainer attached to the bilge injection valve and the pump used for this valve is normally the largest sea water pump (or pumps) available in the engine room. Hence this valve is used to suck sea water from one of the lowest points in the engine room which you can also see from the sketch. This basically means that when you need to remove a lot of water from the ship, you simply need to open this valve and run the big pump/s.

If the junior engineers are reading this, they must always remember that opening up of the bilge injection valve always needs to be done with approval/permission from the chief engineer of the vessel.

Checks and Precautions

  • Emergency situation can arise anytime (that’s why is called emergency) so it would not be a good idea to find out that your valve is stuck due to rust or non-operation. Hence it is a good practice to check for the operation as a matter of routine.

  • The space near the injection valves should be kept clear of all obstacles since normally one would rush to open the valve in an actual emergency, and hence should be minimal obstacles in the space around the valve.

  • Not only should the valve be easily approachable and operational, but it also needs to be checked regularly for actual suction and operation. This can be done occasionally by actually running the pump and trying to draw out water from the bilge spaces uses this valve.

  • The valves should be clearly marked since more often than not, people do get confused in emergency situations and you certainly don’t want to be opening some wrong valve at such a critical time

Just always remember that nothing is more important than life which in turn depends on the safety of the ship. Hence such procedures should not be ignored or postponed for a later date, despite the hectic schedule of work.