16 January 2010

Singapore's Three-Quarters (3/4) Tank Requirement & Tampering

Dear Reader,

Crude Oil
A very good weekend to you. Before we commence our discussion, we first touch upon the price of crude oil. Today, the price of crude oil is, according to various sources:

According to the Wall Street Journal (ibid.), the latest US economic data shows demand for energy is slowing down, perhaps an indication the American economy recovery is slowing down. Energy stockpiles are rising despite projections that colder weather would bump up fuel consumption to generate heat. Experts have identified warm weather as causing the stockpile. A stronger dollar has also been blamed for making crude oil expensive on the international market. One oil market analyst, Stephen Schork, expects crude oil to slide further to $75 per barrel, but cautioned that the present economic recovery could sustain or push prices up.

CNN (ibid.) says that last week's oil price peak at USD84 per barrel (the highest last year) was "too far, too fast", and the market is now calming down. CNN drew parallels with the American stock market, where prices rose last week, but came down this week. Warmer weather was also identified as a cause for oil's price decline. Dan Flynn, an energy trader at PFG Best, was quoted saying oil could plummet to USD40 by next week.

Reuters (ibid.) reports that the International Energy Agency expects oil demand to reach its high level this year, but discounted its growth projection by 20,000 barrels per day. Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch & Associates in Galena, Illinois, was quoted saying heating oil futures made up the largest portion of oil sold, and warmer weather had affected its sales.

Singapore's Three Quarters (3/4) Tank Requirement

According to Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority website:

Singapore registered cars must have at least 3/4 tank of petrol when departing Singapore. Hybrid motor vehicles, as well as Compressed Natural Gas vehicles with petrol tanks are also subject to compliance of the 3/4 tank ruling.

Failure to do so constitutes an offence. On settlement of the offence, you will have to turn back to top up your fuel if you wish to continue on the journey.
(Source: Immigration & Checkpoints Authority. Three Quarter Tank Rule. Accessed: 16th January 2010.)

According to Singapore's Customs department, "Leaving Singapore in a Singapore-registered motor vehicle with less than three-quarter tank full of motor spirit" is an offence. The punishment for such a heinous crime is as follows:

1st offence: $100
2nd offence: $300
3rd offence: $500

The driver must turn back to fill up the fuel supply tank up to three-quarter tank full before he is allowed to leave Singapore with the motor vehicle.

If the fuel gauge of the motor vehicles is tampered, the offender will be charged in Court.
(Source: Singapore Customs. Customs Offences. Accessed: 16th Jan. 2010.)

Apparently, not declaring, or under-declaring cigarettes figures big as a customs offence as well. Interested reader can access the link above to read more. Lucky this blogger does not smoke.

It seems that the rule applies to all vehicles bearing Singapore licence plates only. Therefore this rule should not apply to vehicles bearing Malaysian licence plates.

Curious non-Singaporean readers can also read the colourful and well-written Customs Guide For Travellers, issued by Singapore Customs.

Singaporeans Tampering With Fuel Gauges

In 2008, Abu Khalid was the first person to be convicted of tampering with his vehicle's fuel gauge. On 5th August 2008, Abu Khalid bin Md Jadi, 52 years old, was convicted of tampering with the fuel gauge and fined S$500 or in default one week's jail. He was also convicted of giving false information to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer and sentenced to two weeks jail. (Source: Singapore Customs, 12th Aug 2008. Singapore Customs Media Release: Motorist with Tampered Fuel Gauge Fined and Jailed Two Weeks.) Some sordid details from the press release:

On 31 July 2008, at about 10.45 am, Abu Khalid Bin Md Jadi drove his car to Woodlands Checkpoint. At the checkpoint, when asked whether he had three-quarter tank of fuel in his car’s fuel tank, Abu Khalid declared that his fuel tank was almost full. After conducting a thorough check, a remote control switch was found hanging from the wiper lever of his car. When being questioned, Abu Khalid claimed that the remote control was malfunctioned and could not give any reason for its purpose. The ICA officer then activated the remote control and saw the fuel indicator dropped to “E”, indicating an empty fuel tank. Only then did Abu Khalid admit that the remote control was for the purpose of tampering his vehicle’s fuel gauge reading.
(Source: ibid.)

Abu Khalid informed the ICA that he had the remote control device installed at the cost of RM150 -- possibly a clue that the remote control devices are installed in Johor Bahru. There may be a booming business in Johor Bahru for installation of such remote control devices.

On 26th September 2008, Alfred Tan Chee Heng, aged 27, became the second person to be convicted of tampering with fuel gauge in Singapore. He was fined S$500 or in default one week's jail. Alfred Tan was also convicted of giving false information to an ICA officer and convicted with two weeks jail. The facts are similar to Abu Khalid's case. (Ref: Singapore Customs, 2nd Oct. 2008. Singapore Customs Media Release: Second Motorist with Tampered Fuel Gauge Fined and Jailed Two Weeks.)

On 10th October 2008, Muhammad Ali Putra Hairom, aged 24, became the third person to be convicted of tampering with the fuel gauge, and giving false information to the officer inspecting his vehicle. He, too, used a remote control device to manipulate the fuel gauge. Muhammad Ali was convicted and fined S$500 for tampering with the fuel gauge and two weeks jail for false information. (Ref: The Straits Times, 10th Oct. 2008. 3rd caught for tampered gauge.) The Straits Times (ibid.) also reported that since 2006, six (6) persons had been successfully prosecuted by Singapore Customs for fuel gauge tampering. Click here for the Singapore Customs media release on Muhammad Ali.

In 2008, Andreas was the fourth person to be convicted of tampering with the fuel gauge. On 5th December 2008, the Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) issued a press release about Andreas, who was given three chances to come clean about tampering with the fuel gauge. Andreas was caught by a kindly ICA officer who asked Andreas twice whether the car tank was three quarters full. Andreas replied in the positive. The ICA officer noticed a remote control device in the car, suspected to be used with the tampered fuel gauge. The ICA officer asked Andreas for the third time whether he had followed the three quarter tank requirement and Andreas replied in the positive. The ICA officer activated the remote control and the fuel gauge went down. Andreas was convicted in court and sentenced to S$500 fine or in default one week imprisonment. He was also sentenced to two weeks jail for giving false information to the ICA officer. (Ref: Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, 5th Dec 2008. Man threw away three chances to come clean on 3/4 tank offence, fine $500 and jail two weeks.)

So much for convictions in 2008. Much more recently, the Straits Times reported on 14th January 2010 that two men, Muhammad Shaiful Ismail, 30, and Benjamin Giam Kok Meng, 36, were "each sentenced to two weeks' jail and fined $500 for offences under the Customs Act." They were both trying to enter Malaysia at about 2am, minutes apart from each other. Both had also installed remote control devices that manipulated the reported level of fuel gauge. (Ref: The Straits Times, 14th Jan 2010. Tampered fuel gauge: 2 jailed.)

It seems that Singaporeans can avoid two weeks' jail, being punishment for declaring false information under the Singaporean Customs Act: Simply inform the ICA officer and/or the Customs officer of the remote control device if asked. However, that would be defeating the purpose of installing the remote control device in the first place.

It also seems that these would-be offenders have all been caught because a government officer managed to see the remote control switch or remote control device for manipulating the fuel gauge. Perhaps they should reconsider the shape, size and location of the remote control device.

Singapore newspaper TODAYonline reported that in 2009, twenty eight (28) people were convicted of tampering with their vehicle's fuel gauge. (Source: TODAYonline, 15th Jan. 2010. Two jailed for tampering with fuel gauges.)

HowStuffWorks has suggested that fuel gauges are inaccurate, due to the sending unit's inconsistent resistance, the float, and the shape of fuel tanks. (Ref: HowStuffWorks. How Fuel Gauges Work. Accessed: 16th Jan 2010.) It also discussed microprocessor-controlled fuel gauges.