EMEA cargo thefts high despite pandemic lockdown

Product thefts from supply chains in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in 2020 produced losses of more than €172m, despite lockdowns implemented as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, says a new report.

The Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) received reports of 6,463 thefts across 56 EMEA countries, down on the 8,548 incidents reported in the previous year but a sizeable increase in total value from €137m in 2019.

The average loss per day to theft in 2020 was €471,432, up from around €378,000 in 2019, while the average value of larger (more than €100,000) cargo thefts came in at €529,348, roughly the same as the prior year.

Food/beverage and tobacco were the most targeted product categories, and as might be expected there was a spate of stolen shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as sought-after items such as face masks and hand sanitisers.

TAPA stresses that as the figures only come from its Incident Information Service (IIS), the total value of cargo theft in EMEA is likely to be "only a fraction of the losses…being suffered by manufacturers/shippers and logistics service providers."

It also points out that the pandemic likely had an impact on reporting of incidents, as law enforcement agencies (LEAs)  faced the added pressure of policing new government lockdowns.

"While some criminal operations would have been disrupted by lockdown measures, 2020 still saw the second-highest rate of incidents in TAPA's 24-year history, said Thorsten Neumann, chief executive of TAPA EMEA.

"Had we been able to maintain the same level of data sharing from LEAs across the region as we achieved in 2019, I am certain 2020 would have set a new record for cargo crimes in the EMEA region," he added.

The UK and Germany were the most common countries for theft, but that is likely to reflect the culture of reporting incidents in those countries as much as being hotspots this type of criminal activity.

Among the approaches adopted by thieves was impersonating police and traffic officers by displaying blue lights, use of GPS jammers to block tracker devices, roadblocks, and gas or pepper spray attacks on drivers taking rest breaks in their cabs.

Pickups using drivers with fake documentation and use of online fright exchanges to offer cut-price transportation were also seen.

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