Managing a New Security LandscapeBy Pedro Alcalá | Thu, 11/26/2020 - 11:19
Q: What are the most important circumstances, including COVID, that have defined the industry’s changing risk profile during 2020?
A: Regarding security issues, Mexico unfortunately remains in the same situation despite the government’s strategies. Indicators and figures have not varied as much as expected given this year’s changing circumstances. A decrease in crime has not materialized and, as a result, the risk profile remains unchanged. It is important to highlight that some states have seen an increase in crime and others have seen a decrease but, overall, the average crime rate has remained the same. Offshore crime has increased in recent months.
What has changed in 2020 are the security protocols companies have implemented. With COVID-19, protocols have been rewritten to comply with precautions. This is particularly true for transportation protocols. For example, before, five or six people would travel in one SUV. In keeping with social distancing mandates, no more than two or three people are allowed inside the same vehicle. This means we might need a larger convoy, which changes our logistical needs and plans. The pandemic has also changed our HR practices, since we now have to screen for COVID-19 cases among new recruits and monitor their condition constantly through contact tracing and processing during all operations. This means having an even stricter control over who enters which unit and when.
Q: How can PEMEX apply safety protocols?
A: The first and most important rule is to follow all sanitary measures and guidelines from both federal, state and local authorities without exception. It is incredible that PEMEX has the highest number of COVID-19 workforce cases among companies globally, and it is also the company with the highest monetary debt. An interesting paradox arises when we consider that the state of Campeche, where a great deal of PEMEX’s operations take place, was the first state in the country to move to “green” in the federal COVID-19 stoplight system. So while Campeche has among the nation’s lowest COVID-19 transmission rates, the Campeche Basin has one of the nation’s highest COVID-19 transmission rates. This happened simply because rules and guidelines were ignored. This is complicated further when oil and gas platforms and offshore facilities need a specific number of workers to run and operate these facilities properly. PEMEX needs to recognize that its most important asset is people. The NOC is already dealing with these consequences and a number of its employees are already taking legal action against the company. Additionally, contractors, freelance workers and service providers will be charging a lot more for the services they provide to PEMEX.
Q: What factors have increased offshore crime?
A: Proximity to the shoreline of certain key oil and gas assets in the Campeche Basin is one of the factors that has led to an increase in crime. Crime related to oil and gas assets use to be quite common at onshore sites, and part of what allowed it to reach this critical point were the excuses from the authorities who claimed that the issue was not as important as everybody said it was. As a result, all operators now have to allocate a higher percentage of their operational budget for private security, which in itself is much more expensive when it involves offshore rather than onshore private security. Another factor is the flow of information, which within companies and organizations is at times not as controlled as it should be, and this opens the door to crime. This is particularly true of offshore crime. Criminal groups spot their targets and objectives, which in onshore environments they can do through surveillance that they can do on their own. At sea, they cannot do this. They can only act on the basis of information that leaks from companies and organizations that operate in those offshore environments. In this sense, offshore crime can be compared to crime in the banking sector: it is seriously dependent on data leaks and as such, a great deal of the risk can be mitigated by companies implementing strict data-sharing protocols.
The technology and weaponry used in these offshore crimes and piracy in Mexico are much less sophisticated and deadly than those used in much more dangerous waters, such as off the coast of the African Horn. For instance, there have been a few reported instances of crews armed with AR-15s but there have been no reports of crews armed with grenade launchers or rocket launchers. This means that we still have time to prevent any escalation. To achieve this, companies not only need to cooperate with private security companies; both entities need to collaborate extensively with the government.
Eclipse Solutions is a risk management and security firm focused on the energy sector and established in 2012 by energy attorneys, consultants and retired professionals from the American military and intelligence sectors.