Nine of Cups has been in Australia for nearly three years. We have fueled up innumerable times in those three years in every Australian state except for the Northern Territory. Our last fuel-up was in Fremantle, Western Australia. Most larger marine fueling stations are run by Bailey's Marine Fuel, “Australia's largest independent marine fuel supplier.” It's sometimes a challenge buying fuel because you can't just use your credit card or debit card to pay. You have to have a Bailey's fuel card PLUS a credit card or debit card to buy fuel and we, of course, with no permanent Australian address, do not have a Bailey's fuel card … nor did we think we wanted or needed one. Bailey's thought differently.
In some ports, there was a gas station close enough to haul a few jerry jugs worth of diesel back to the boat. Sometimes we had the loan of a car to make things easier. Once in awhile we could just buy fuel cards in $100 or $200 denominations in a “pay as you go” fashion and take on fuel that way. A couple of times we used someone else's fuel card, which seems to be legitimate, and paid them cash for the fuel we bought. All of these methods, although tending towards being a pain in the ass, were satisfactory. I'm an easy guy to get along with.
In Port Denison, we were on the service jetty right next to the fuel bunkers and thought we'd fuel up there most conveniently for our Indian Ocean transit. We called the Department of Transport, to whom we paid our jetty fees, but alas, they couldn't figure out a way to allow us to buy fuel unless we had a fuel card. Perhaps we could find a willing fisherman to let us use his card? No worries … we'd fill up in Geraldton.
Geraldton, our very last fueling stop in Australia, has posed a new challenge. There are no gas stations close by. We have no car at our disposal. The fuel dock is at the fishing port, not the marina, but heck, we only need 50 gallons to top up. I telephoned the Department of Transport once again. They seem to have good information, albeit not always what I wanted to hear. It seems Bailey's runs the fueling operation here in Geraldton and I'd need to call them. No, they didn't have a number, but they were sure it would be easy enough to find. Marcie found it on-line and I called. I explained we only needed 50 gallons or so.
“Right-o,” said the helpful fellow on the phone who happened to be in Fremantle. “You'll need to get a fuel card.”.
“How do I do that? How long will it take?”
“Just fill out the app on-line and you can probably get an account set up by tomorrow morning, latest.”
Okay … Marcie was listening and had already found the website, the fuel card app and was beginning to fill it out. “Oops … they want an Australian address.” I called Bailey's again.
“Just fill in the address where you are … no worries”, said the fellow, so very pleased I had called back within five minutes of the last call.
I left Marcie to complete the app while I did some deckwork. She filled in the Geraldton marina address, the credit card stuff and various other pieces of information and sure enough, within minutes, we had an approved application. They sent a welcoming e-mail and explained that they'd be sending out the fuel card in the next 3-5 business days. Not quite what we'd hoped for. I called back the fellow in Fremantle. He was now aware that we were Yanks and obviously not fuel or computer savvy.
“No worries, mate. Just get on line, get back on the Bailey's website. You'll need to do the induction and then you'll be good to go. I'll tell you where to pick up a temporary fuel card at the unmanned fuel dock. Be sure to bring your phone.”
Well, that was an ordeal, but we'd be able to get fuel tomorrow. Wait a minute … “induction” … did he say “induction”? Sounds like entering the military. Marcie got back on line to investigate and I went back to my chores. When I returned 20 minutes later, she continued the saga. In order to be “inducted”, Marcie had to download a new program (Microsoft Silverlight) and then we needed to watch several videos and take a test. I needed to complete the Induction Course successfully before I could buy fuel. It would only take 15-20 minutes (and $15 of our internet time) to complete. Marcie made dinner while I watched the videos. We both took the test. Not hard … four questions at the end of each video segment. I realize how important safe fueling procedures are and how environmentally aware of fuel spills we need to be, but really …
Ah … new day. Greeting us this morning on e-mail, my Induction Certificate from Bailey's … suitable for framing. Now I can buy fuel. I loaded six jerry jugs into the dinghy, rather than moving the boat (seems we have a windlass problem … more on that later) and headed over to the fuel dock in the Fisherman's Marina. I did a careful check before leaving … fuel jugs, rag, line, phone, phone numbers, Induction Certificate #, Reference #, camera (Marcie wants pictures, of course), wallet, credit cards. The Fremantle bloke also mentioned I'd need to take a picture and e-mail him some of the forms I would be signing. Since our phone is not “smart”, I also took the Optus dongle and the iPad for good measure.
A 20-minute ride with our 5HP dinghy engine and I was at the fisherman's fuel dock ready to go … and feeling pretty confident with my new Induction Certificate number that I'd be doing everything correctly. I called Fremantle, but the fellow I spoke with yesterday so many times, was off today. The new fellow outlined all the reasons I could NOT buy fuel.
#1 – I did not have a permanent Australian address.
#2 – Though they had my credit card number, I could cancel it after buying fuel and they'd be out the money and we'd be long gone.
#3 – They couldn't issue me a temporary card because they've discontinued that option. Our “yesterday” fellow was misinformed.
They did offer one option. If I wanted to stay for an hour, they could get a fellow who does have a card to come down to the fuel dock. I could buy fuel on his card and they'd charge our credit card … for a mere $90 fee.
“Why is this different than me buying the fuel and you charging my card directly?”
“It just is ... because of our billing system.” he informed me.
“Okay, can I pay cash?”
“Well, no. There's no one there to take cash.”
“So … I can't buy fuel here?”
“Right-o, mate! I can't see any way to work around the system without paying someone to go down there”, he said most apologetically.
Marcie could tell by my face (and I'm sure the sea lion could as well) and the fact that the dinghy was riding too high on the water, that I hadn't purchased any fuel. We plan to rent a car tomorrow at a far less cost than $90.