Supply chain congestion raising threat of cargo theft

A new report says that cargo thefts targeting vehicles in transit declined sharply in 2021, but were accompanied by a 30 per cent increase in incidents at storage facilities.

The study by international freight insurer TT Club and BSI collated 2021 incident data from law enforcement agencies, governments and trade associations like the Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA).

It found that during 2021 global supply chains continued to face significant security, continuity, and resiliency threats due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although the total number of incidents fell compared to the previous year.

The spike in thefts at storage facilities was linked to an increase in idle times due to significant port congestion throughout the year, with an associated rise in insider theft, exacerbated by fraud and cybersecurity issues related to the use of digital connections between companies and transporters.

"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 laying idle." 

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

Hijackings accounted for 26 per cent of cargo thefts in 2021, down from 30 per cent in 2020, with thefts from facilities at 25 per cent versus 24 per cent in the previous year and another 7 per cent of incidents linked to employee theft.

The products most frequently involved in global cargo thefts overall last year, included agricultural produce (12 per cent), food and beverage (14 per cent), construction materials (9 per cent) and electronics (10 per cent).

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 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," said Yarwood.

"TT, along with its partners is committed to tracking and reporting on such developments in criminals methods of operation in order to reduce the risk of losses wherever possible."

The report can be downloaded here.

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