Storage locations are increasingly vulnerable to theft at ports and inland facilities

Supply chain congestion is increasing the opportunity for thieves, according to a joint report from TT Club and BSI. Its research found that while globally, cargo thefts from or of vehicles in-transit declined in 2021, incidents at storage facilities rose to nearly 30%.

In North America, the prevalence of port congestion and railhead delays seen as crucial factor. Meanwhile, idle times in European locations also augmented theft and stowaway risk.

Strict COVID-19 protocols at Asian ports, particularly in China, created delays and backlogs leading to theft opportunities.

Among the trends to watch out for are an increased influence of insider infiltration into operator organisations such as haulage companies and warehousing facilities and adoption by criminals 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,” says 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.” 

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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, says: “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. 

“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, adds: “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.”