MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s government announced on Thursday that it has acquired hundreds of tanker trucks in a bid to alleviate fuel shortages and combat pipeline sabotage.
“During the process, which concluded yesterday, we entered into memoranda of understanding for 671 tanker trucks – equivalent to 140,000 barrels per day – at a cost of $92 million,” said Raquel Buenrostro, the chief clerk of the Finance and Public Credit Secretariat.
Speaking to reporters during leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s daily morning news conference, Buenrostro said an agreement was reached this week during a bidding round in New York that attracted transportation companies from the United States and several other countries.
“The bids were submitted in two sessions,” the official said, adding that “significant savings” were achieved and the vehicles will be acquired between early February and late March.
The purchases are aimed at guaranteeing gasoline and diesel supplies nationwide while also combating the theft of fuel from pipelines owned by state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex).
“I support these purchases because I have total confidence in the people who went on this mission to acquire the tank trucks,” said Lopez Obrador, who pledged full transparency in the procurement process.
Stealing fuel from pipelines owned by state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and re-selling it on the black market has become a major criminal enterprise in Mexico.
This form of theft cost Mexico some $3.4 billion last year, according to official figures.
Since his Dec. 1, 2018, inauguration, Lopez Obrador has launched an all-out fight against the racket, deploying thousands of police and troops to increase the surveillance of pipelines.
The administration also adopted a change in Pemex’s method for shipping gasoline and diesel from refineries to urban distribution centers, opting to transport more fuel via tanker trucks instead of pipelines.
That modification has caused severe supply problems in at least 10 states and Mexico City and led to the closing of service stations and panic purchases.
In parallel with those steps, Lopez Obrador presented Tuesday a plan to provide economic aid to communities along the routes to discourage residents from illegally tapping into the conduits.
The plan is expected to benefit 1.68 million people in 91 municipalities and has an estimated price tag of 3.86 billion pesos ($187 million).
The goal is to alleviate poverty and end the need for people to tap the pipelines to get fuel, the president said.
That plan was unveiled four days after a pipeline explosion in central Mexico caused by an illegal tap killed at least 100 people.
The blast occurred last Friday night as hundreds of residents of the small town of Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo state, were collecting fuel after thieves had drilled a hole in the duct.