TAPA – cargo thefts spike expected as criminals go back to work

The Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) has warned that logistics companies must be prepared to protect their supply chains in a projected spike in cargo thefts as lockdowns are being lifted across the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.

Cargo theft from warehouses and trucks have been more difficult during lockdowns as entire national populations have been called on to remain at home. TAPA has received information of more than 400 cargo thefts from supply chains between 1st March and 29th March, worth €16.4 million across 34 countries in the EMEA region. The average value of these thefts have been €100,000 and some exceeding €840,000.

Among these thefts, April saw sports equipment thefts in the UK, 2 million facemasks stolen in Spain and a theft of mobile phones in Kenya. As lockdown is lifted across the region, a spike in thefts is expected as criminals (like the rest of us) go back to work.

Thorsten Neumann, President & CEO of TAPA EMEA, said “Cargo crime is a 24/7/365 phenomenon but the outbreak of COVID-19, and the lockdown enforced by governments across the EMEA region, has severely disrupted the activities of both organised crime groups (OCGs) and opportunist cargo thieves. Evidence shows offenders clearly like to disappear into the crowd but with fewer people and vehicles on the streets and roads, criminals-at-large have faced a much higher rate of detection. Subsequently, many have gone-to-ground over this period – but they have not gone away. OCGs, in particular, will be looking to make up for lost ‘income’ during this period and this is likely to result in much higher risks for the transport and logistics industry, with trucks remaining most vulnerable to attack.

“Cargo thieves see disruptions to supply chains as windows of opportunity. The emerging risk for businesses is due to the distortion of their supply chains; blanked sailings, ships not calling at all ports, short term shift to rail from China-to-Europe – either due to less air and sea capacity or excessive air cargo rates, and shifts from scheduled to charter freighter flights. The result is that many shipments are moving along unfamiliar routes and through different hubs and cross-docks where risks might not be fully known or assessed, and transit times are longer. Congestion at hubs is also generating risks, for example truck drivers often don’t have time to get to safe parking places because they waited so long to load. Supply chains are being stretched, traceability is more challenging, and there is a greater risk of cybercrime as a consequence of more home-based employees and greater systems exposure. These factors are going to test the resilience of every supply chain.”

Neumann concluded, “Companies should expect to see a spike in cargo crimes impacting every mode of transport over the rest of 2020 as cargo thieves get back to business. Last year, we recorded regular attacks on products carried via air cargo, ocean freight, road freight and rail freight, and this will continue unless companies take steps to protect themselves and their clients. We are ready to talk to any manufacturer or LSP about the solutions available to them.”

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