Recent LA cargo thefts highlight a growing trend

by Emily Atkins

As media reports highlight the piles of ripped open boxes and discarded goods that litter the railway tracks around Los Angeles as a result of thieves breaking into derailed shipping containers, insurance specialist TT Club reports that this is not an isolated incident.

TT Club and BSI are highlighting the increased risk of theft from storage facilities seen over the past few months in the United States. The changes in theft patterns from the same quarter last year highlight a trend away from ‘on the move’ targets, to those locations where cargo is temporarily stored and delivered.

Shifting to areas with less security

These locations include traditional warehouses and depots where containers and trailers are being held awaiting collection, many of which are temporary facilities in port areas without adequate security regimes.

As the diagrams below show, the largest rise in the methods and locations for cargo theft was from facilities:  the percentage of the total increasing to 25 percent in the third quarter of 2021 in contrast with just seven percent in 2020. At the other extreme, theft of freight vehicles fell from a dominant 47 percent in 2020 to a surprisingly low 15 percent. Hijackings halved from 20 to 10 percent.

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The more prevalent types of theft for each quarter are indicated by the ‘hotter’ colours in the illustration.

Thieves adapting

“There is little doubt that the problems of supply chain disruption that are currently bedevilling the U.S. freight transport system, particularly that of container congestion at ports and inland hubs, is creating increased opportunities for thieves,” said Mike Yarwood, TT Club’s managing director, loss prevention.

“The static nature of cargo in these circumstances, often stored in temporary and less secure facilities, leads to criminal ingenuity adapting the modus operandi of theft in a typically resourceful way.”

TT Club is sharing the data because it says those concerned with risk management in the supply chain both in the U.S. and throughout the world should be aware of such patterns and hopefully take measures to reduce losses, costs and insurance claims.

“Whatever the location and means of cargo theft such incidents can often be averted through straightforward due diligence, management processes and employee vetting and training,” Yarwood explains.

TT Club provides mutual insurance and related risk management services to the international transport and logistics industry. Founded in 1968, it has more than 1,100 members, spanning container owners and operators, ports and terminals, and logistics companies, working across maritime, road, rail, and air.