Salmon recovered by police after a truck robbery.
Salmon recovered by police after a truck robbery.

Chilean truckers steering clear of salmon route due to robberies

Many drivers won’t haul loads to Concepción because of hijacking risk, says spokesman

Published

Many Chilean lorry drivers are choosing not to transport farmed salmon due to the risk from armed hijackers, a truckers’ spokesman has said.

Claudio Kemp, president of the Puerto Montt Trucking Association, told Fish Farming Expert’s Chilean sister site, Salmonexpert.cl, that the association is very concerned about the increasing number of hijackings carried out to enable the theft of salmon cargoes.

“The issue is becoming more and more serious. In fact, there are many colleagues who are avoiding transporting salmon to Concepción due to the risk that this implies, due to armed robberies and cargo theft, which eventually insurance does not cover,” said Kemp.

Black market

He backs the idea of making penalties for such crimes tougher and cracking down on the black market for stolen salmon.

“These crimes must be regulated, classify them with higher penalties, and involve (state aquaculture agency) Sernapesca and the Internal Revenue Service (Servicio de Impuestos Internos, or SII) in a greater way, working together to monitor where the stolen fish is consumed,” said Kemp.

“For this, more technology should be applied to be able to track the load and where it ends up. This is where the SII has a lot to do, since that cargo is being sold somewhere and the service can thus inspect much more to determine the origin of the product, because it is known that these stolen cargoes are sold in informal commerce.”

Kemp said the robberies have made working more difficult for truckers, who are often owner-drivers.

“In itself, the work is complex in addition to the negotiation of rates, so not transporting this type of cargo for fear of being robbed makes the situation much more complex,” he said. “This is beyond the responsibility of private parties, and it is the duty of the State to safeguard the safety of the routes. If this is not happening, obviously it produces a crisis in our union.”

Information from Puerto Montt

The truckers’ spokesman said stealing salmon was attractive to organised criminal gangs due to the price they can obtain for the load, and that gangs may be getting precise information about which vehicles to hijack.

“We believe that the information is filtered from Puerto Montt, since it is very coincidental that they are dedicated to assaulting certain types of trucks,” said Kemp. “The largest number of assaults occurs in the Biobío Region, in the Los Ángeles-Cabrero area and the Las Maicas toll booth, but recently there was an attack in Chiloé and a couple of days ago an incident occurred near San José de la Mariquina in the Los Ríos Region.”

He believes it would be very positive if the truckers’ association joined government consultations about a new bill introducing more severe penalties for the theft of cattle, copper cables, and salmon, all of which are carried out by organised crime gangs.

“One of the aspects that must be addressed is that the cab of the truck must be considered a residential home. Truckers spend more time in the cab of their trucks than in their own homes, however, cabs are not considered burglaries. If this were considered so, it would imply that the penalties would increase a lot, which would help to discourage criminal gangs from daring to attack the cab of a truck,” said Kemp.

Trucker charged

Yesterday, a court remanded trucker Nelson Javier Carrasco Vera in custody after he was charged for the crime of aggravated robbery.

In the remand hearing, magistrate Guillermo Olate Aránguiz ordered Carrasco Vera to enter the Llancahue de Valdivia Penitentiary Complex, on the basis that the defendant’s freedom constitutes a danger to the security of society. In addition, he set the investigation period at 90 days.

According to the prosecuting agency, in the afternoon of Tuesday, January 10, 2023, the defendant left Puerto Montt driving a truck loaded with approximately 40 tonnes of salmon, which he had to take to the Talcahuano commune.

In the early hours of Wednesday, January 11, he deviated from the route and entered a local road, in the Dollinco sector of the Mariquina commune, where he proceeded, along with a group of unknown persons, to transfer the load to another vehicle, for profit and without authorisation from the company that owns the species.

Once the transfer was completed, Carrasco Vera reported that he had been the victim of a robbery to the police who found him handcuffed inside the truck, giving rise to investigative proceedings that allowed establishing the falsity of the complaint and the respective arrest warrant for his responsibility in the theft of the cargo, valued at $126,675,470 (£126,000).