The high stakes robberies we tend to hear about in today’s day and age are often found online, with banks or companies being taken for some ridiculous amount of money. However, we tend to forget about the gangs who plot grand scale schemes to manipulate the tangible systems within our country. A report by the Sunday Times, claims criminal gangs have stolen more than 10 million litres of fuel over the past year which comes as a chilling reminder of the real-life, major criminal activities happening under our noses.
Targeting pieces of Transnet’s 3,200km underground pipelines, The criminals allegedly create holes on the pipelines and siphon off the fuel, seeing in the gang skimming off millions of litres of petrol, diesel, gas, crude oil, and aviation fuel. Resulting in losses valued at approximately R1 billion per year.
With authorities looking into the matter, fuel theft is an ongoing challenge which Transnet faces.
In an attempt to derail the demand for illegal petroleum products, in June of this year, Transnet began calling on stakeholders who are involved in the petroleum value chain, in order to pool together efforts in the fight against fuel theft from the country’s pipeline infrastructure. The railway giant also called on petroleum retailers and members of the public to refrain from buying fuel from unregistered traders.
Going on to say, “The tampering and damage to the pipeline because of theft continues to remain the biggest threat to the security of fuel supply, particularly to the inland areas. It also poses a danger to nearby communities, due to the inherent dangers of tampering with high-pressure petroleum pipelines, which could result in fire incidents, causing serious injuries and/or fatalities to the perpetrators and communities.”
According to the company, the network of 3800 kilometres of high-pressure pipelines navigates five provinces and supplies approximately 250 million litres per week of refined petroleum products to an inland market, which accounts for 65 percent of the total demand.
Looking a bit deeper into the problem, approximately 26 fuel theft incidents took place between April and June of this year. Resulting in over a staggering 2 million litres of petroleum products being stolen from the pipelines.
Taking proactive steps in an attempt to minimise theft, Transnet is working with the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (“Hawks”), National Crime Intelligence and SAPS. This, in addition to increased security measures being implemented along the pipeline.
The partnership with these entities is proving to be beneficial for the company, generating positive results with a number of breakthroughs in the form of arrests as well as the impounding of vehicles and fuel tankers, being recorded.
Transnet continues to engage key stakeholders in the value chain such as the Department of Mineral and Energy (DMRE), National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) and oil companies to identify the drivers of such criminality. The pipeline is classified as essential infrastructure, therefore tampering, or colluding to tamper, is a Schedule 5 offence in terms of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act, Act 18 of 2015.
In addition, Agri SA also voiced its concerns about the theft of fuel and the ongoing acts of vandalism perpetrated by well-organised syndicates.
According to Agri SA, the agricultural value chain is reliant on diesel for key steps in the agricultural process, such as harvesting and the transportation of produce.
Therefore, disruptions in the supply of fuel have the potential of doing grave damage to the industry as a whole. All commodities can potentially be affected with the logistical linkages in the diary and fresh produce supply chain being particularly vulnerable. High-value export commodities such as citrus, fruit and macadamia’s will also be negatively affected.
With the South African economy and agricultural sector already facing overwhelming challenges, the theft of fuel not only puts immense strain on Transnet and the entities and industries involved with the company, it also, however, has a major knock-on effect which is felt in each and every South African’s life.
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Authors: Quinton Boucher and Calvin Swemmer
Edited: Calvin Swemmer