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Fuel theft is on the rise, driven by the economic climate, the fuel crisis and price increases. The cost for businesses to replace lost fuels as well as repairing tanks, pumps and ancillary equipment, not to mention additional expenses incurred by business downtime can be significant.

But the potential costs of fuel theft are far higher than just the operational loss, it also has potential environmental and reputational consequences.

Fuel theft is not just about the money
Damage to pipes and tanks and subsequent leakage of fuel are common following a theft, leading to environmental contamination that can be difficult to clean up. In some countries environmental legislation states that the responsibility to pay is on the polluter, so on top of having your fuel stolen you have an environmental issue that needs to be dealt with too… and pollution claims can be expensive.

If there is substantial pollution, then in addition to fines and lost contracts there could be the cost of reputational damage.

Being prepared with a proactive approach
Fuel theft can really disrupt a business; it is inconvenient, time consuming and costly and can be a painful process to rectify if a pollution condition occurs. Costs to the business can be 100 to 200 times more expensive than the price of the fuel, with an average insurance claim being in the region of £250,000. You can’t always avoid these events happening, but you can be aware of the risks, take precautions to minimise the threat and protect your business. And, if the worst-case scenario does happen, be prepared to react and to minimise the damage.

Here are our tips for implementing preventive measures:

  • Educate your employees on risks and best practices, they are critical to ensuring the good housekeeping of security procedures; locking away tools which could be used to access your supplies, ensuring that equipment is tested, checked and turned on and that employees know who to contact, how to raise the alarm and how to stop a leakage.
  • Ensure you have an environmental management plan for oil and fuel storage to comply with government regulations on how to store fuel, design standards for tanks and containers, where to locate and how to protect them and the capacity of bund and drip trays.
  • Reinforce security measures. This might sound obvious, but you need to ensure they are fit-for-purpose, checked and tested regularly and that you have all bases covered to stop thieves from accessing your fuel with security cages or fencing, alarms, security lighting, high quality locks and patrols or 24-hour surveillance.
  • Fit CCTV and Wi-Fi camera systems with motion detection activation to cover your fuel supplies and the access routes to them. Set them up to sound alarms and to send an alert to your mobile phone so that you can detect intruders before they get to the fuel tanks and to warn them off.
  • Use a smart fuel level and usage monitoring system which detects unusual drops in fuel levels, indicating a leak or when fuel thieves are emptying a tank. This improves your fuel tank security and allows you to be put back in control of your fuel consumption. The system raises an alarm at a central monitoring station and sends an alert to your mobile phone and email address.
  • Lock fuel tank caps and install anti-syphoning equipment to slow down and frustrate thieves to limit them from being able to be in and out as quickly as possible.
  • Put up signage to make it clear that your fuel supplies are protected to deter opportunistic theft.

Despite taking all these precautions theft may still happen and purchasing Environmental Risk Insurance can help provide additional protection. It can help: 

  • provide cover against the emergency costs to limit the impact of environmental damage,
  • provide your business with expert advice to help you assess the environmental liability and damage, and advise on the best course of remedial action,
  • indemnify clean-up costs,
  • navigate the Environmental Liability Directive and communications with the Environmental Agency,
  • provide a crisis communications service if needed.

The cost of remedying environmental damage can mount up when you factor in third party costs, legal fees and the clean-up itself and cover will help you get back on track.

As outlined, there are both some simple and some more sophisticated preventative measures you can put in place to mitigate the risk to your business from fuel theft. The environmental aspect might not be something that you have previously considered, nor the negative impact it could have on your business.  Reviewing your business exposure to risk to make sure you are protected for operational, environmental and reputational damage is time well spent.

For more information about environmental risk read more here or contact us here.

Dorothée Prunier, Senior Vice President, Environmental Risks, Chubb Overseas General – Underwriting