A suspicious built structure, a tunnel and equipment erected with the intent to siphon petroleum products from a Transnet pipeline were demolished on September 14 after a joint security operation led to the discovery of the building on a vacant piece of land in Phola, in Mpumalanga, Transnet Pipelines CE Michelle Phillips says.
It is alleged that the structure and associated infrastructure were built for the specific purpose to steal petroleum products from the Kendal-Witbank pipeline.
Upon investigation, working together with the authorities, the Transnet Pipelines’ tactical security teams made the discovery. High walls were built on the vacant piece of land to conceal a tunnel leading to the petroleum pipeline. The matter is under investigation and no arrests have been made as yet.
During the current financial year, Transnet has had 50 fuel theft incidents and over three-million litres of product have been stolen.
“It is encouraging that the various security, surveillance and tactical response measures are yielding positive results.
“Furthermore, the collaboration between all stakeholders, including the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks), National Crime Intelligence and the National Prosecuting Authority and contracted specialised security service providers to deal with fuel theft and tampering with critical infrastructure, is demonstrating the commitment to halt the onslaught of criminal activities and keep our pipelines and communities safe,” Phillips emphasises.
To date, the joint operations have resulted in 150 arrest and 49 vehicles, 66 tankers and 58 trucks being impounded.
Moreover, these arrests averted a serious disaster as tampering with the high-pressure petroleum pipelines and associated infrastructure can lead to disastrous consequences, including personal injuries and fatalities, extensive environmental damage and fire, Phillips notes.
To date, five victims have lost their lives trying to steal fuel.
“Transnet continues to urge all petroleum retailers and members of the public to refrain from buying fuel from unregistered traders, to curb the demand for illegal petroleum products and to join in the fight against petroleum theft,” Phillips says.
Members of the community are requested to report any suspicious activity, bakkies, tankers or activity near the company’s infrastructure by calling the toll-free number 0800 203 843, or reporting the matter to the nearest police station.