Fuel smuggling and the illegal 'laundering' of agricultural diesel and special fuels, which are distinguished by an added colour, have always been one of the favourite activities of criminal groups on the island, North and South. But the more the prices for oil and fuel rise on the legal markets and at petrol stations, the more lucrative this activity becomes for criminals.
Rogue Irish hauliers have now been warned by the Revenue Commissioners (who collect our taxes, but are also in charge of the Customs Service) that they are to step up their campaign to detect illegal usage of motor fuel.
The move has been welcomed by the Irish Road Haulage Association, which wants the rogue operators put out of business.
Already this year marked mineral oil, reserved for agricultural use, has been discovered in the fuel tanks of 471 Irish vehicles not entitled to use it.
In the first six months of 2008 there have also been seizures of more than 57,000 litres of 'laundered fuel', 'green diesel' and Northern Ireland kerosene in the Republic.
Meanwhile new measures to combat 'fuel laundering' and fuel smuggling are also planned in the North, where most of the illegal fuel operations have been based so far.
It remains to be seen if the combined forces of the two states will have a real effect on the Irish fuel smugglers. They have been in their illegal business since 1922, and despite various campaigns against them over the decades, they are more active now than ever before.
In my opinion fuel smuggling and 'laundering' will continue as long as oil and fuel prices are high and the profits for smugglers and criminals are lucrative.
The limited forces of the Customs Service, Garda Siochana and the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) will - despite their best intentions and efforts - not be enough to solve the problem.
The Emerald Islander