CARGO owners and logistics providers must prepare to protect their supply chains from a projected spike in cargo thefts as coronavirus lockdowns begin to be lifted across the Europe, Middle East and Africa, the Transported Asset Protection Association has warned.

TAPA is an association of security professionals and related business partners from various manufacturing and transportation companies.

“With entire national populations being advised to stay at home to stop the spread of COVID-19 since the beginning of March, cargo thieves have clearly found it much more challenging to target goods in warehouses or onboard trucks,” TAPA said in a statement.

TAPA’s Incident Information Service received reports of more than 400 thefts of products from supply chains between 1 March-29 May 2020, valued at more than €16.4m. These crimes took place in 37 countries across the EMEA region, with the   average value of major cargo crimes of €100,000 or above exceeding €840,000.

In April alone, TAPA recorded a series of seven-figure losses, including thefts of two million face masks in Spain, sports equipment in the United Kingdom, and mobile phones in Kenya.

The 2020 figures, though, show a significant drop over TAPA’s IIS statistics for the same period of 2019. Then, over the course of the corresponding 90 days, the Association’s incident database was notified of over 2500 cargo thefts with a total value in excess of €33m.

With communities and businesses across EMEA now starting to return to some kind of normal, Thorsten Neumann, president and CEO of TAPA EMEA, expects a substantial rise in criminal activity, adding to the financial and reputational pressures on the supply chain sector.

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“Cargo crime is a 24/7/365 phenomenon but the outbreak of COVID-19, and the lock-down enforced by governments across the EMEA region, has severely disrupted the activities of both organised crime groups and opportunist cargo thieves,” Mr Neumann said.

“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.”

Mr Neumann said organised crime groups 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,” he said.

“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,” Mr Neumann said.

As well as providing its members with a constant source of incident intelligence to understand when, where and how cargo thieves are operating, TAPA EMEA also offers a database of secure truck parking places across the region to help protect this most vulnerable mode of transport.

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