Supply chain clogs boosting cargo theft opportunities

by Emily Atkins

Thefts from cargo storage facilities increased 30 percent in 2021, a fact attributed to widespread congestion at ports and inland facilities.

In their annual joint report on global cargo theft trends, TT Club and BSI found a dramatic shift from risk of in-transit, vehicle- based attacks to losses while cargo is at-rest. Storage locations are critical at-risk areas.

Around the world, congestion and delays were found to be creating opportunity for thefts. In North America, the prevalence of port congestion and railhead delays was seen as a crucial factor. Idle times in European locations also augmented theft and stowaway risk, while strict Covid-19 protocols at Asian ports, particularly in China, created delays and backlogs leading to theft opportunities.

“Constant vigilance is required in order to combat the growing risk divergence in theft trends,” said 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 lying 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.”

The research also found an increase in ‘inside jobs’ by due to insider infiltration into organizations such as haulage companies and warehousing facilities. Criminals have also adopted digital techniques, aided by increasing supply chain digitization and lax security

As the graphic shows, the products most frequently involved in global cargo thefts overall last year, included agricultural produce (12 percent), food and beverage (14 percent), construction materials (nine percent) and electronics (10 percent) 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. “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,” said Tony Pelli, BSI’s practice director for security and resilience .

“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.”

The annual report is based on recent incident data for the whole of 2021 collated from sources including law enforcement agencies, governments and trade associations. In this last reporting period input from the Transported Asset Protection Association’s (TAPA) Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) region has also helped to significantly increase the level of intelligence in these territories.

“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 organized crime groups which often regard supply chains as an easy and lucrative target,” said Thorsten Neumann, president and CEO of TAPA EMEA.

“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 recognize 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.”