There is increased threat of piracy in the southern Gulf of Mexico, with oil platforms and other installations a potential target, the U.S. government has warned.
“Armed criminal groups have been known to target and rob commercial vessels, oil platforms, and offshore supply vessels in the Bay of Campeche area in the southern Gulf of Mexico,” the State Department said in an updated travel advisory as quoted by Reuters.
There has been pirate activity in the Bay of Campeche for years, with the criminals posing as fishermen and attempting to board offshore platforms and vessels in the Gulf, according to reports in Mexican media. They were a headache for Mexico’s Pemex as they targeted its platforms, on several occasions succeeding in stealing things like pipes, electrical wiring, copper, and various equipment, as well as cash.
According to a report from January 2019, there was a 310-percent increase in pirate activity in the southern Gulf of Mexico over the three years to end-2018, from 48 attacks in 2016 to as many as 197 in 2018.
Witnesses said the pirates travelled in fast boats, boarded platforms, and threatened crews with guns before stealing whatever happened to be of value, from drilling equipment to screws. But, according to Mexico’s President, they also stole crude oil straight from the platforms.
This oil theft, according to an October 2019 report, cost Pemex as much as $1 billion annually.
Oil theft is not uncommon in Mexico, with most of it linked to local cartels using the services of crooked Pemex employees. Yet most of this theft takes place on land: over just two months in 2018, criminals drilled almost 2,300 illegal taps into Pemex pipelines in Mexico.
According to Pemex’s own estimates, the losses from fuel theft over the past three years have reached $7.5 billion (147 billion Mexican pesos). A lot of the theft is conducted by gangs who are quick to resort to violence as they fight among themselves for greater access to state fuels and also engage in extortion of oil workers.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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