Mexico's Bay of Campeche
oil instalations threaten by pirates
© Mosto / Adobe Stock
Piracy activity on the Mexican side of the Gulf of Mexico seems to be picking up,
with several attacks on offshore support vessels -Offshore Engineer
By Rebecca Conan /Argus
Petroleumworld 07 31 2020
Mexico's Campeche sound should be declared a high-risk area by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) amid rising numbers of armed attacks on oil and natural gas vessels and platforms, maritime experts say.
"One of the main reasons for the increase in these attacks is weak ocean governance and the non-existence of maritime security policy," Adriana Avila, academic at the World Maritime University, said in presenting her research today on the resurgence of organized crime in the Gulf of Mexico.
Avila, with Dimitrios Dalaklis, documented 14 cases of armed attacks against vessels or marine platforms during the first four months of 2020, with just three of those reported to international maritime agencies.
Groups of up to 15 people aboard small boats — armed with assault rifles, shotguns, machetes and knives — steal money and equipment from the vessels and platforms at night while crew members are held hostage. The criminals usually carry radios tuned to navy radio bands to avoid detection.
Response to attacks is slow, with the navy arriving up to two hours after reported incidents. Vessels have even been attacked in areas officially designated as guarded.
Attacks have "increased significantly amid the Covid-19 pandemic," Avila said, but accurate historical data is scarce given the lack of reporting by the navy.
The navy is required under international maritime law to develop policy against armed robbery and piracy and to report all incidents to international authorities.
A high-risk area designation would oblige vessels in the region to employ enhanced security protocols, could bar certain vessels from circulating and increase insurance premiums Avila said.
The US Maritime Administration has documented attacks against 35 oil platforms and offshore supply vessels since January 2018in Campeche, causing it to issue an alert earlier this year.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pledged to combat this crime — incidents of theft more than doubled to 273 cases in 2017 from 114 cases in 2016 amid an absence of security, a government audit found — as well as purported crude theft from the Dos Bocas port.
The navy stepped up security measures including exclusion zones around platforms and invested $12mn in a search, rescue and monitoring station in Dos Bocas, but security analysts consulted by Argus said that the region still lacks sufficient surveillance and response capabilities.
Navy patrol vessels are at berth most of the time because government austerity measures have forced them to cut down on diesel consumption, Avila's research found.
The Campeche sound is home to state-owned Pemex's three major oil-producing complexes: Ku Maloob Zaap, Cantarell and Abkatun-Pol Chuc, which produced 1.34mn b/d or 81pc of national production in June, according to the latest Pemex data.