Oily Bilges: A Dirty Secret.

A decade ago, at a trade show, I asked a commercial fisherman how he dealt with the oil contamination in his bilge. He winked at me and said; “a squirt of Dawn (detergent) and I wait until after dark to pump it out.”

He was joking; I think. If he wasn’t, and he is still failing to clean his bilge before discharging, then it’s likely he has received a large fine by now.

In recent years, failure to comply with shipping regulations for the discharge of bilge water (oil contamination must be lower than 15 parts per million) will probably result in a $5000 fine for the first offence, doubling for the second, and if vessel owners really don’t get the message there’s the possibility of jail time.

There is also the inconvenience of not being able to tie up in certain jurisdictions unless your bilge is clean.

There is more to it than the expense and the hassle. Sure, back in the olden days, when the “greenies” were the enemy and our only focus was filling the hatches, paying attention to an oily bilge was way down on our priority list.

Now, with declining fish stocks and the negative effects of warming oceans on our livelihoods, we all need to play our part. With increasing fuel prices and all the other rising costs in our industry, how do we deal with yet another burden on our time and profitability without cutting corners?

Let’s start with the current solutions we have to keep our bilges clean.

  1. Absorbent Pads.

Retailing for about $1 per pad, they are the cheap and easy solution for mopping up surface oil, right?

To keep the bilge consistently clean, you could use upwards of 20 pads a day. It doesn’t take long for the cost of these “cheap” pads to be significant.

Efficient? Not when you factor in working hours to deploy the pads and then disposing of them in line with more environmental regulations.

Pads are messy, inefficient and more expensive than they first appear.

  1. Filters.

Bilge Filters are installed on your bilge pump discharge line and will effectively remove 99.9% of hydrocarbons (fuels and oils) from your bilge water. However, they quickly become clogged and need frequent changing.

The replacement elements cost between $100 – $200, so bilge filters can be as expensive as absorbent pads. Again, the dirty filters need proper disposal after use and someone to change the filter.

  1. Pump Outs.

Many vessel owners opt to have their bilges pumped. This is the most costly of all options, running into the thousands of dollars per pump out, depending on the level of oil contamination.

The industry has desperately needed a cost-effective and efficient solution.

Now we have one.

The Mini-OX Bilge Cleaner is an automated system which skims and retrieves hydrocarbon from a dirty bilge.

It’s Convenient.

The Mini-OX floats in the bilge. We can program it to operate at various time intervals. All that’s needed is a separate container to capture the retrieved oil, which the unit pumps from the bilge.

The proprietary technology captures all types of oil without water. It does not use filters.

Once the Mini-OX Bilge Cleaner is installed, just press the button, and it cleans the bilge.


The Mini-OX Bilge Cleaner will remove oil contamination significantly less than 15 parts per million–below the current shipping regulations. It handles dirty engine oil, hydraulic oil, diesel and even emulsified oil.

For the best results, we recommend using the Mini-OX Bilge Cleaner regularly to keep the bilge oil-free.

Cost Effective.

The Mini-OX Bilge Cleaner will replace or significantly reduce the use of pads and filters. It’s a one-off cost, saving thousands of dollars of consumables and disposal fees and reducing the risk of large fines.

It’s incumbent on all of us who depend on the ocean and waterways to make our living, to keep it clean for future generations, and now we can do that, without hurting our bottom line.

Your oily bilge no longer has to be your dirty secret.