One mistake and they could have been burnt to death.
But that did not deter these Indonesian seamen from pilfering marine gas oil from their own vessels and transferring it to another vessel for profit.
Those who bought the oil from these men were also Indonesians. But some were bankrolled by a Singaporean. Their tugboats had been modified with additional fuel tanks to accommodate more of the flammable fluid.
In at least one case, the fuel pump was in the bunk, just centimetres away from where the crooks had been spending their nights. Despite the dangers of a fire breaking out, police said that there has been an increase in the number of cases involving the illegal sale of the fuel.
To date, there have been four such cases this year, involving 32 people. Last year, there were three cases involving 26 people.
The police said that these vessels are a fire hazard and pose a danger to others nearby.
There has also been a huge spike in the amount of fuel they dealt with.
The crooks siphoned 60,000 litres of the fuel this year, compared to 6,000 litres last year.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Assistant Commissioner Lim Kim Tak from the Police Coast Guard (PCG) said the increase was because in just one of the cases this year, the seamen stole 50,000 litres of the fuel.
The Deputy Commander of Special Duties added that this case took place in February and involved a mini tanker.
The PCG is now collaborating with working groups to enhance maritime security.
They are: the Jurong Waters Safety and Security Network (JSSN), which is made up of 26 coastal companies; and the Pandan Waters Safety and Security Network, which has 21 firms.
Yeng Tong Construction is part of JSSN and one of its crew coordinators, Mr Fazail Sapto, 32, said that two of the four cases this year involved his company.
To ensure that crew members who work on its vessels do not sell the fuel to others, he monitors their fuel usage very carefully.
He said: "For instance, I will be suspicious when a tugboat that usually uses around 60 litres an hour suddenly appears to have used up 200 litres within the same time.
"I may then conduct surprise checks on the crew and inform the police if I find that they've been selling off the company's fuel to others."
The sellers can be jailed up to 15 years and fined if they are guilty of committing criminal breach of trust by a servant.
The buyers can be jailed up to five years and fined if convicted of dishonestly receiving stolen property.
This article was first published on Sep 16, 2014.
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