Illegal bunker fuel trade on the rise in Singapore

Cases of illegal trade in marine diesel are on the rise in Singapore and more offenders have been arrested, according to the republic’s Police Coast Guard (PCG).

From January to July this year, around 60 metric tonnes of ship fuel changed hands illegally, 10 times more than the whole of last year, local media reported, citing information from the PCG. In total, the oil was worth more than SGD70,000 ($55,500).

Lim Kim Tak, deputy commander (special duties) at PCG, said the jump was mostly due to one of four cases this year, where a whopping 50 metric tonnes of oil had changed hands.

The police also arrested 32 men up to July this year, compared to 26 arrests in the whole of last year for such offences.

The PCG revealed that the marine diesel was siphoned off boats while they were moored in Singapore waters, and later sold to vessels outside the territory through a middleman.

An average boat can hold only 20 metric tonnes of oil, but offenders will usually modify the boats’ fuel tanks illegally to store a larger volume.

The PCG is doing checks on many boats entering Singapore waters, and vessels in question usually have pumps and long hoses on board to transfer the oil, according to Lim.

Those found guilty of theft of bunker oil face seven years in jail and a fine. Those who buy the stolen oil could be jailed for five years and fined.

The coast guard works with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) to detect such offences.