The vulnerability of PEMEX infrastructure is a common industry concern, especially with regards to the ever-present risk of huachicoleo, which has remained a drain on the NOC’s coffers. In the past month, however, more direct thefts have plagued the company, as offshore platforms belonging to service providers contracted by PEMEX have fallen victim to two robberies in which machinery of significant value has been stolen.
PEMEX's oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico have become the target of violent robbery. On two occasions this month, groups of armed men made off with equipment, tools, materials and other items from an oil platform operated by sub-contracted service provider Eyva. While the total cost of the robbery and the long-term impact that the incident has inflicted on local operations remains to be seen, it was reported by PEMEX spokespeople that six workers were threatened at gunpoint. The assailants pointed both handguns and assault rifles at their heads before absconding with the loot.
This follows an incident that occurred in late May 2022, when a gang of at least five people illegally boarded the offshore support vessel Crest Tarasco, stealing expensive tools and communication equipment valued at more than MX$1.5 million (US$74,500). The vessel belongs to the PEMEX service provider Protexa. Local media sources reported that in less than an hour, the gang made off with electric polishers, extensions, cables and other valuable pieces of equipment.
Additionally, at the very start of 2022, workers of the KU-S platform of the Ku Processing Center, part of the Ku-Maloob-Zaap field, reported that a group of bandits took about twenty self-contained breathing apparatuses, communication radios and tools in a haul worth over MX$1 million (US$49,801). Another significant incidence of piracy targeting offshore oil and gas platforms occurred in June 2021, when eight individuals boarded the Sandunga platform belonging to Finestra Energía, another PEMEX subcontractor. Upon hearing gunshots, crew members took refuge in the platform's safety room and from there notified the authorities of the robbery.
Luis Miguel Labardini, Partner, Marcos y Asociados emphasized that the problem must be tackled at the root: “The equipment that is stolen from the platform appears in Ciudad del Carmen and the subcontractors or contractors buy stolen equipment without realizing it. This vicious cycle must be broken. When there is no longer a market for stolen equipment there is no incentive to do it." "Fortunately, there have been no extreme instances of violence that have led to the death of crew members. However, we have to consider the possibility that there are people on the payroll of PEMEX and its subcontractors who give information on where the equipment is," he added.
For more than three years, legislators have tabled several motions in an attempt to urge the Ministry of the Navy (SEMAR) to reinforce patrols and surveillance in the Gulf of Mexico, specifically in the Bay of Campeche. "These thieves seize equipment, materials and valuables, processed or crude hydrocarbons. The number of robbers and speedboats with which they carry out their misdeeds is increasing, as well as their level of aggressiveness and violence," reads one of the rulings presented in Mexico’s Senate.
This document also refers to the activities of other armed groups that board fishing vessels on the high seas to rob them of their boats, engines, fishing gear, merchandise and belongings, as well as the theft from ships moored at docks, which causes great harm to the local economy and jeopardizes regional food security.