Question: In the photo I sent, the label on the pump clearly says, “Do not use where flammable vapors are present.”

Despite having conflicting labels and messages, this pump is, in fact, ignition-protected.

Despite having conflicting labels and messages, this pump is, in fact, ignition-protected.

On the same label, you can see a reference to ISO 8846, "(Marine) Ignition Protection." My understanding of ignition protection standards is that they have this rating because they will be safe in the presence of flammable vapors. I’m really confused by this labeling. It’s not really a problem on my boat because I use diesel fuel and the pump is nowhere near any potentially flammable vapors, but what about someone with a gasoline-fueled boat?

Answer: Good question. It must be a Jabsco thing. I’ve run into problems with their labeling before. In another case it was a small bilge pump that had no indication of whether it was ignition-protection rated or not. A call to the manufacturer assured me that the particular model number in question was indeed rated for ignition protection.

The pump you show in your photo is a model 23920 pump, which is a part of Jabsco's “Utility Puppy” line of pumps. It also bears an additional ISO 8849 rating, which addresses bilge pumps.

To answer your question, it may help to be aware of the meaning of ignition protection as the ABYC defines it: “Ignition protection -- the design and construction of a device such that under design operating conditions: it will not ignite a flammable hydrocarbon mixture surrounding the device when an ignition source causes an internal explosion, or it is incapable of releasing sufficient electrical or thermal energy to ignite a hydrocarbon mixture, or the source of ignition is hermetically sealed.”

In researching this I found that the specification sheet for this pump is crystal clear in stating that it is indeed rated for ignition protection, and not only complies with the ISO international standard, but also the USCG CFR 183.410 regulation. The confusing part is still the label about the flammable vapors. The only clue I have on that is a very clear directive found on a British website selling this pump which states that it should never be used for pumping flammable liquids such as gasoline or diesel fuel.

My advice to boaters is to use this as a bilge pump and not worry about it.

My advise to Jabsco: Please provide more detailed information to your customers. This is unnecessarily confusing.

Written by: Ed Sherman
Ed Sherman is a regular contributor to, as well as to Professional Boatbuilder and Cruising World, where he previously was electronics editor. He also is the curriculum director for the American Boat and Yacht Council. Previously, Ed was chairman of the Marine Technology Department at the New England Institute of Technology. Ed’s blog posts appear courtesy of his website, EdsBoatTips.