November 18, 2018 17:58

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Smuggling petroleum on the sea continues to be complicated

08:59 | 27/05/2018

VCN- The appearance of smuggling activities in the Southern Sea in large numbers shows that they are returning much more frequently than before.

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PACIFIC OCEAN ship was seized by the Coast Guard Command No.2 on 11 April 2018 with illegal 100 m3 of DO oil on the sea. Photo: Coast Guard.

Use fishing ships for smuggling

According to the National Steering Committee 389, smuggling and illegal transportation of petroleum has been complicated, with the focus in the sea areas of Quang Ninh, Hai Phong, Kien Giang, Soc Trang and Ca Mau. Through the assessment of the competent forces, the smuggling is connected with domestic perpetrators, and foreign leaders to transport large quantities of gasoline and petrol. In the case of transportation to Vietnam's territorial sea, the petrol in ships shall be transported to Vietnam's ships. Typically, the Coast Guard is holding two ships from overseas with the amount of about 7 million liters of petrol, and this case is being further investigated and clarified.

A report from the Ministry of Defense showed that during the peak of the fight against crime, smuggling, trade fraud and counterfeiting before, during and after the Lunar New Year, there were a lot of smuggling petrol activities coming into Vietnam. Smugglers who buy petrol and oil from foreign ships at low prices without legal papers would escape quickly out of Vietnam's territory when being detected.

At the conference of the first quarter of 2018 of the National Steering Committee 389 (18 May 2018), Major General Nguyen Van Son, Head of the Coast Guard Command in Vietnam, said in the first quarter of 2018, the forces discovered and handled 57 violations with state budget revenues of over VND 3.1 billion; prosecuted 3 cases with 3 perpetrators. Out of 57 cases of violations, there were 15 cases involving the illegal transportation of petroleum on the sea with the number of up to nearly 15 million liters of DO oil.

For example, in the first three days of March 2018, in the South West Coast, the Coast Guard in Region 4 arrested four oil transporters illegally carrying over 1 million liters of DO oil. Recently, from 15 May 2018 to 18 May 2018, in the South East and South West Coast, Coast Guard Region 3 and Region 4 detected and handled 4 cases of fishing vessels transporting 460,000 liters of illegal DO oil.

Currently, the demand for oil by fishing vessels in Vietnam is very large, while the organization of offshore logistic services has not been properly supported. As a result, buyers (usually fishermen) will buy oil at a cheaper price than inland and will not use and lose fuel by movinginland for refueling. The mode of trading is fast. Accordingly, the buyer and the seller receive signals from each other. In particular, there are many cases, perpetrators used fishing vessels converted into oil tankers to carry illegal petrol and oil across the country.

Difficulties in handling

According to Major General Nguyen Van Son, the Coast Guard forces have been making full use of their ability to investigate, verify and handle cases of smuggling and trade frauds, especially foreign ones related to many countries and areas of international trade. For cases showing criminal signs, the Coast Guard forces shall transfer them to the specialized investigating agencies to conduct investigation according to its competence. However, most of the means and transports must wait for a long time, which affected the normal operation of the port.

Major General Nguyen Van Son said that at present, legal regulations did not have sufficient sanctions to deter the violation of "buying illegal oil". The only form of administrative punishment is to "fine" and the additional penalty is "confiscation of exhibits". In addition, the wide area of the sea and the difference in legal regime in each sea (internal waters, territorial waters, contiguous territorial sea, exclusive economic zone) make it difficult to fight against smuggling and cross-border cargo transportation. At the same time, the forces directly involved in the fight against crimes and violations are still weak. In addition, specialized equipment and means in service for inspections, control and handling of violations have not met the requirements and practical tasks.

The Coast Guard forces requested the competent authorities to closely control the means of fishing vessels used by fishermen to repair or convert them into vehicles for sale and purchase of illegally-imported petrol and oil, especially in the Southern Sea. Particularly, they shall study measures to strictly treat means of conversion of fishing vessels for the purpose of smuggling petrol, such as depriving the fishing license for a definite term or preventing them from export.

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Besides, in order to deal with smuggling and trade fraud involving foreign elements, representatives of the Coast Guard Command shall request the competent agencies to coordinate with the countries in elaborating and promulgating judicial assistance agreements or cooperative mechanisms among the parties serving as a basis for the exchange of information between Vietnam and other countries in investigating and verifying acts of law violation of foreign ships and boats on sea.

By Dao Le/ Hoang Anh