According to the Transport Asset Protection Association (TAPA) the number of freight thefts is exploding. “Organized gangs have specialized in stealing high-value goods, including entire trucks. In contrast to the sharp rise in highway robbery, cargo thefts at airports have been reduced to a trickle.”
Crime in cargo reaches new highs
The good news is that stiff security measures for air freight by ground handling agents, forwarders or carriers, prior to loading the shipments on board an aircraft has brought the thefts committed at airports down substantially. This positive result comes from a tightly-knit control network performing quite well, confirms TAPA’s EMEA Chairman Thorsten Neumann. However, Thorsten also has some bad news: Organized crime is concentrating more and more on the transport sector outside the airports, targeting specific truckloads or entire vehicles.
The reporting of cargo crimes to TAPA’s Incident Information Service (IIS) reached a five-year high in 2015, with 1,515 recorded freight thefts which represent a 37.4% increase y-o-y.
Security awareness increases
TAPA says the 2015 data reflects a growing awareness of cargo crime among law enforcement agencies in Europe, the Middle East & Africa (EMEA) which includes the willingness of police forces in major European countries to share data with the Association to help its members* increase the security of their supply chains (*manufacturing companies, logistics services providers a.o.).
In 2015, the Association attained critical information on cargo crimes in 29 countries across the EMEA region, including 70 incidents with a loss-value in excess of €100,000. Five countries saw incidents involving product losses of more than €1 million, including Italy which recorded the biggest single loss in 2015 when thieves broke into a warehouse close to Milan and stole pharmaceuticals valued at €3 million.
Robbers playing Cops
Highways and roads have become major risk areas for forwarders and truckers, warns expert Neumann. “They have become the weakest link within the supply chain, hard to control and hence quite attractive spots seen from a criminal perspective.” Why, because a lot of high-value goods are constantly moving on highways all over Europe, including Turkey and the Middle East. The risk of getting caught, for criminals disguised as customs officials or fake police squads, after having stopped a truck in the middle of nowhere or during fake truck check-points at parking zones is rather low, because it is mostly hit and run - when professionally done.
Easing rigid driving times
Tightened security, improved surveillance and reporting are useful countermeasures. Furthermore, the rigid driving hours for truckers imposed by regulators should be eased and handled with more flexibility, urges Thorsten. “The authorities should allow them to go a couple of extra miles if they are close to an airport or their final destination, to deliver their goods instead of forcing them to park their trucks at a parking lot (near a service station) because their contingent of drive time has elapsed, requiring a compulsory break.” This way, the most vulnerable point within the cargo supply chain could be eliminated bit by bit, TAPA urges. Thorsten emphasizes that improving door-door supply chain security sharply reduces the risks of becoming the focus of terrorist activities.
That being said, Neumann points out a frightening trend towards criminal attacks getting increasingly violent. The use of guns during assaults reflects this and has risen dramatically, resulting in drivers shot down deliberately when they resist the attack. This is corroborated by the activities in Russia, the Netherlands and Italy.
EU database ?
TAPA is unable to provide exact figures when asked to substantiate the criminal’s concentration on the transport sector. The main reason for this is the lack of a European database which separates transport theft from robbery or other kinds of theft. According to Neumann: “We know that the number of cargo crimes reported by TAPA and others still only reflects what may be a relatively low percentage of overall cargo crimes. Often this is because freight thefts are recorded by law enforcement agencies only as commercial property or vehicle crimes so it is difficult to extract the data that specifically relates to supply chain losses.” He goes on to say that this is changing as seen in a record number of intelligence updates received from police authorities last year. “This is very encouraging and enables us to build an increasingly accurate picture of cargo crime.”
TAPA’s aim is to minimize cargo losses from the supply chain. The organization was formed in 1997 to tackle the multi-billion euro problem of cargo theft. Today, over 800 member companies globally support the initiative, of which 407 are doing business in the EU.
Heiner Siegmund / Michael Taweel