Mexican Government Seizes Product Tanker in Fuel Theft Bust

semar, fuel theft tanker
Image courtesy SEMAR Mexico

Published Sep 21, 2020 8:42 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Sunday, Mexico's Office of the Attorney General (FGR) and the Mexican Navy seized a product tanker at the port of Veracruz for alleged involvement in the transportation of stolen fuel. 

In Mexico, illegal pipeline tapping and fuel theft - a practice known domestically as "huachicol" - are commonplace, and they are quite damaging for the economy. What was once the province of small-scale thieves and entrepreneurs has since become a large-scale enterprise run by Mexico's powerful criminal cartels. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has worked to crack down on the practice and has reported some success, but the problem continues, facilitated and accompanied by violence and corruption. 

On September 11, following anonymous tips, Mexican authorities found an illegal tap on a Pemex pipeline near Cardenas, Tabasco. A stolen truck was also found at the site. Inside a nearby warehouse, the investigators found 16 vertical fuel storage tanks and five more trucks. 

On September 12-13, in a related action, the officials caught two trucks loading stolen fuel aboard the tanker Blue Commander at Pajaritos Lagoon in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. 21 members of the crew were arrested for the crime of possessing hydrocarbons without the paperwork showing its source. The vessel was arrested.

According to Mexican paper El Universal, the fuel-theft operation was part of a larger conspiracy run by the Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel and the Sangre Nueva Zeta cartel. The scheme covered illegal fuel transport in the states of Veracuz, Tabasco and Campeche.