Pirates Are Holding Up Mexico’s Oil Rigs at Gunpoint

A recent attack was the second in less than a month, and part of a trend of rising attacks by pirates on government oil platforms at sea.
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An oil drilling rig operated by Pemex in  Campeche, Mexico. Pirate attacks on rigs like this are on the rise in Mexico. Photo: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Ten pirates dressed in military attire and armed with assault weapons held up a Mexican government-owned oil platform in the southern state of Campeche on June 14.

During the heist, the pirates kidnapped a group of six workers on the platform for more than three hours, and forced some of them to help carry the stolen goods to their waiting boat. 

The attack in the Ku-Maloob-Zaap oil field was the second in less than a month, and part of a trend of rising attacks by pirates on government oil platforms at sea, from which they steal equipment worth thousands of dollars each year.

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The pirates arrived at around 7pm and stole all the breathing equipment on the platform, as well as communication gear and workers’ personal belongings, an activist for Pemex workers, Miguel Pineda, told local press a day after the attack. 

It’s not known if the pirates are part of a criminal organization, and they have not been identified by authorities.

“The workers said the men arrived so fast they were not able to hide from the attack. All of the workers are alive and uninjured,” Pineda said. 

Less than a month before, on May 25, pirates attacked a cargo boat hired by Pemex in the Gulf of Mexico not far from where the latest robbery took place. 

The group of around five pirates arrived at the Crest Tarasco ship, firing their AK-47’s and took control, according to workers speaking to local press. They stole communication equipment, tools and at least 35 diving suits. 

Last year, authorities registered more than 11 pirate heists on platforms and boats, with a total loss of around 22 million Mexican pesos (over a million dollars), according to news reports

The uptick in pirate attacks in Mexico could be because of economic instability brought by the pandemic, according to a recent report by global risk consultant firm S-RM

“Ongoing insecurity in Mexico has likely further contributed to a permissive offshore security environment, which has grown increasingly more dangerous despite government efforts,” the firm noted. 

In 2019, the Mexican government installed a surveillance station operated by the Mexican marines out of the port of Tabasco. Although, the security measures are not enough to face the threats of piracy, according to a recent analysis by think-tank InSight Crime. 

The think tank warned: “The threat posed by pirates has escalated to the point that Panama and the United States have issued warnings to ships to increase security conditions when sailing in the Gulf of Mexico or to avoid the area if possible.”