Tidewater OSV fuel theft





Fuel selling/dealing has been going on for years in West Africa. Nothing new here.


Yup it’s rife all over, allegedly most OSVs in the likes of Angola and the Republic of Congo do it. It’s allegedly very big in the far east as well, in countries like Vietnam and Malaysia.

It’s a problem because it makes people a lot more willing to take jobs with low wages so they can top it up to a reasonable level by illegally selling fuel, so people who are honest and don’t want to break the law can’t compete in wage demands with those who do.

These guys were released without charge:



No comment on the fact that Tidewater’s local management does NOTHING to assist their employees during their ordeal?:

Again, nothing much happen before it becomes an issue in the media.

Would this have been different if any or all of the crew members were American, or West Europeans?

Would the US and/or any West European Embassies have had any more “luck” in getting them fair treatment?


Most probably if they were from a rich country that had more diplomatic influence they would have had more support, but countries like the Croatia, Ukraine and the Philippines are somewhat small players on the world stage. That is how the world works, unfortunately. Maybe someday we can all be Norwegian as half of Somalia seems to be in the process of doing.


So true, but what about the largest OSV owner/manager in the world, for whom these people worked?
Don’t they have at least a MORAL, if not legal, obligation to assist in a situation like this?
OK I know the answer to that question; “Moral???, what moral”???

Yes they were probably hired through Crewing Agents and not direct employees, but Tidewater are the defacto Operator/Manager of the “Sutton Tide”.


Shipping is a globalized industry and it is a race to the bottom with regards to terms and conditions of employment. If one company drops it’s standards in order to save a bit of money, then competitors have to follow suit in order to stay competitive.

Tidewater’s high powered attorneys will most probably have closed every single legal loophole that could lead them to have any liability with regards to incidents like this.


Thanks heaven there are still people in shipping that have a moral compass, although they may be outnumbered by Turdwater’s ilke.


That’s a huge problem with the industry in more ways than just terms of employment. Standards of construction are affected by the same downratchet.


I’ve never worked in this region, but have a few friends that have. They made it sound like you were expected to sell fuel and if you don’t, that would create more problems than not.


That’s what I’ve heard. When the client rep says “go pump X amount of diesel to my barge” you don’t really have a choice. The office’s view was “do what is necessary to stay on contract, don’t be greedy”.


After having a couple of drinks I decided to tell you a story of sludge. You all well know, that besides the burning of medium or heavy fuel oil probably 1 - 1,5 % of the daily consumed amount goes to the sludge tank. It might be through purifiers, trough filters, by draining of settling and service tanks or by venting preheaters etc. There are many ways to fill a sludge tank. The problem was ( because I am retired…) to get rid of that stuff. In the states we paid for two truckloads appr. 10.000 several years ago. In Australia I got a box of whine for a truckload of appr. 20 cbm. In Europe you had a limit of appr. 30 cbm free of charge and the remaining stuff had to be paid for. Well, small vessels never had problems but bigger container vessels with a daily consumption of 150 - 230 cbm/d ( up to 60.000 barrels/day) could easily reach a financial margin where the management started to asked - Why ??? Being in the trade route between China and US ( Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Vancouver ) gave you a huge advantage . The Chinese paid for that stuff. It started with 10 per ton and went up to § 100 per ton over the years. While all the deals were made between Captain and Chief the real amount was never relayed to the crew but everybody knew about that and barbecues or a new guitar or video player or TV for the crew mess dimmed upcoming questions. Until the Captains got greedy. Some of you might not like to hear that and not all of you are like that but there was a change in behaviour when the sludge price in China went up. I speak only of China.
Since the Chief had to provide the slugde and had the knowledge to improve the quality with fuel it suddenly was a matter of : On this vessel we received so and so much and here we have less - what are you doing ??? The Chief Engineer was judged by the quality and amount of sludge he produced over a round trip of 70 days. But he was not judged by the crew - only by the Captain. I can tell you what greed makes out of decent guys. Well, finally the crew leaked the procedures to the company, provided graphic evidence and it ended as always.
Only the smartest guys came out unmolested. Can you blame the poor buggers in West Africa for making some side money ?


In my opinion there is nothing wrong morally wrong with selling sludge as its waste oil anyway, but it’s completely different stealing bunkers to sell.

I heard a rumour that do it in West Africa by faking their fuel consumption figures to say they burned more than they did in reality, then they turn their AIS off and rendezvous with Nigerian shuttle tankers offshore and pump off the extra fuel.

Knew a guy that worked in Vietnam, and apparently some of the charterers there actually kick boats off hire if you don’t sell fuel.

Heard a story not that long ago that a Russian Captain joined an OSV somewhere in Asia that had been involved in the selling of fuel, but this guy didn’t want to do it so put a stop to it, his body was found washed up on a beach not long after. I’m not sure how true that is, I’ve searched for it in the news but can’t find anything about it.


Yes selling fuel is rampant in some parts of the world, notably West Africa and some parts of S.E.Asia. I’m very familiar with this and have been involved in finding ways to stop it.

I was engaged by one Oilco. to investigate fuel stealing on an operation in Papua, Indonesia, where I found one little tug that was tied up alongside a grounded barge as standby vessel and standing dry half the time, but reporting fuel consumption eqv. to steaming at full speed 24/7.

Another Oilco, this time operating in the Mahakam Delta, East Kalimantan, Indonesia,found that abt. 25% of the fuel supplied to the boats and swamp rigs hired by them “evaporated”.
I was engaged to train their Marine Inspectors in how to detect and stop the theft by explaining the different methods used, especially on the fuel supply LCTs.
It was a waste of time, since most of them had been engaged in the racket for years and probably knew more ways then me.
Colouring the diesel green only resulted in every truck and boat in the area running on green fuel.

Nobody find anything wrong with Tidewater abandoning their crews to their faith in a country not known for it’s fair system of Law enforcement?? I know they were not Americans, but still???


Sounds like the US Gulf in the old, old days. . . .


It was less dangerous over here.


Tidewater is substandard company in every aspect of maritime business this is why Tdw stock went down from fifty something to 0.70 $ aper share.
Worked for like fourteen years and I know what I’m talking about


That story is true. The Vietnamese crew all declared that the Russian master had decided to go for a swim. He supposedly took a bigger cut than normal.