Mississippi authorities search for elusive fuel barge

| Friday, August 26, 2005

The Mississippi Department of Transportation is on the lookout for a barge possibly smuggling fuel down the Mississippi River.

Transportation authorities believe the barge may be stopping at rural areas along the river and delivering fuel to waiting tankers in order to avoid paying Mississippi’s 18-cent-per-gallon fuel tax.

The Biloxi Sun Herald reported that the DOT has been hearing such stories for years, but has never been able to prove them.

The department appears to be taking those stories more seriously, and is now employing a helicopter to scour the more rural areas along the river to look for likely spots for fuel transfers.

A department spokesman told the Sun Herald that the department had received tips from witnesses that the smuggling is occurring. These witnesses have told authorities that a 3,000-ton tanker was spotted unloading fuel in a relatively uninhabited spot along the river.

Thus far, the helicopter has been used to identify 30 locations along the river that are potential spots where rural roads run close to the riverbanks.