Air Cargo Thieves Putting Extra Cost on the Industry

Theft is an age old hobby of mankind. Some think that the only way to get something, or more than that, for free, is to steal it.
It’s also nothing new in air freight circles; but one which is costing the industry lots of money.

Thieves have moved their attention to hijacking vehicles carrying high quality products  /  source: VR
Thieves have moved their attention to hijacking vehicles carrying high quality products / source: VR

It’s hard to pin down the exact amount in tonnage or actual cost of what is stolen every year.
The “Transported Asset Protection Association for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (in short- TAPA EMEA) revealed not long back that during the first three months of last year organized cargo thefts were highest in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
And – that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg!

Much of this organized “thieving” takes place on trucks carrying air freight either to or from the airports.
The percentage of cargo actually stolen on site at airports is relatively small compared to what is taken outside. This is because airport security and personnel controls have become very strict, thereby hampering organized gangs at work.
But - out on the road, it’s a different story.

TAPA has done a lot in the last years
TAPA (worldwide) was formed many years back with the intention of eventually creating a unified anti-crime organization to help and guide the industry as a whole on how to put up more effective means of protecting cargo transport.
A lot has been done since.
Workshops, seminars, and the now famous TAPA Certification programme whereby if you are certified by TAPA, then your chances of becoming a preferred freight agent, handler or airline are much better.

TAPA’s chairman for the EMEA region, Thosten Neumann, recently reported that although their statistics show the UK and Netherlands as being worst hit in the region, that organized theft of high value goods is increasing elsewhere and that the gangs are resorting to more violent means of hijacking vehicles.

They’ll steal anything
It’s not just high value electronics which come under the scrutiny of these highly organized gangs.
Expensive clothing and shoe ware are also high on the list as well as tobacco products and  beauty products.
Recently, thieves have moved their attention to hijacking vehicles carrying high quality pharmaceutical products.
These gangs are well organized and surely have insider information and helpers at many of the world’s busiest cargo handling airports.

How to combat it?
Easier at the airports as they are basically an enclosed area.
Out on the road, it’s every man for himself.
Truck drivers have to rest when driving for example from London to Edinburgh. Here they are still easy targets for these often violent robberies.
Trucking companies are fighting a hard price battle amongst each other and so far have not, or not been able to invest in fail safe alarm systems.
It’s time that the industry put their heads together to try and come up with a viable and cost effective cargo monitoring system which will hopefully deter gangs from hijacking vehicles.

Easier said than done!
So far it seems that there have been no serious injuries or deaths of drivers who have been attacked. But it will happen as the thieves become more radical.
One solution might be for the creation of five or six central security monitoring companies around Europe, whereby attacks or attempted robbery can automatically be reported and actioned.

Surely the industry has some ideas!

John Mc Donagh

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