Port delays open the gates for cargo crime spree

Criminal gangs have moved their attention from in transit cargo thefts to target goods when they are in storage, according to the results of a powerful joint report of 2021 global cargo theft trends.

The annual study found that the widespread congestion at ports and inland facilities has created increased opportunity for thieves during the past year.

The report and its findings were based on recent incident data for the whole of 2021 collated from sources including law enforcement agencies, governments and trade associations, has been compiled, as in the past years by international transport and logistics insurer, TT Club and supply chain intelligence provider BSI.  In the latest report has also access data and input from the Transported Asset Protection Association’s (TAPA) Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) region.

The study found globally cargo thefts from or of vehicles in-transit declined as incidents at storage facilities rose to nearly 30%. However in North America the prevalence of port congestion and railhead delays seen as crucial factor in a rise in thefts, with idle times in European locations also augmenting theft and stowaway risk

The strict Covid-19 protocols at Asian ports, particularly in China have created delays and backlogs leading to theft opportunities, alongside the increased influence of insider infiltration into operator organisations such as haulage companies and warehousing facilities

Criminals have also adopted a greater use of new technology, assisted by increased digitalisation of supply chain processes and communication.

“Constant vigilance is required in order to combat the growing risk divergence in theft trends,” warned Mike Yarwood, managing director, Loss Prevention at TT Club. “Criminals are quick to adapt to prevailing conditions and have swiftly responded to the increased opportunities that supply chain congestion presents through the amount of cargo laying idle.  In addition, the transport industry’s growing reliance on technology and a rapidly changing market for sourcing materials and components have opened up new avenues for criminals to take advantage of companies’ increased vulnerabilities. TT, along with its partners is committed to tracking and reporting on such developments in criminals methods of operation in order to reduce the risk of losses wherever possible.”

The products most frequently involved in global cargo thefts overall last year, included agricultural produce (12%), food and beverage (14%), construction materials (9%) and electronics (10%) Significantly, many of the materials used to produce the latter two, such as nitrogen, iron ore, lumber, steel and semiconductors, have all experienced sharp price increases since the outbreak of the global pandemic due to shortages with a consequent increase in the value of the manufactured products.

The report also offers advice on how operators can protect their cargo from the theft risks outlined.

Tony Pelli, BSI’s practice director for Security and Resilience has produced a checklist of precautionary action points.

“To mitigate risk there are a range of safeguards, including careful verification of trucking companies and other sub-contractors; insisting on the provision of details such as driver’s name, trailer number and appointed pick-up times and background screening of employees,” explained Pelli.  “Vigilance is paramount, and we hope our reporting and advice will help supply chain partners to maintain and increase their diligent efforts to combat crime.”

Thorsten Neumann, president & CEO, of TAPA EMEA, commented: “What we are seeing in EMEA is a heightened level of risk to virtually all types of goods moving in supply chains across our region. This comes from increasingly active and sophisticated organised crime groups which often regard supply chains as an easy and lucrative target. Sadly, too many companies wait to seek solutions until they become a victim of a cargo crime but, by then, they will have suffered a significant financial and reputational loss. The way forward is to recognise the risks which exist and to learn about the industry standards, training and intelligence solutions which are available today and which are already key to the supply chain resilience of leading manufacturers and freight transport and logistic providers. All is not lost, but it is a time for action to manage these risks and prevent rising product losses.”

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