Lock up your cargo. According to the Transported Asset Protection Association’s (TAPA) incident information service, the reporting of cargo theft and crimes in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) reached a five-year high last year, with 1,515 recorded freight thefts, representing a 37.4 percent increase over 2014’s figures.
The association said this reflects the growing awareness of cargo crime among law enforcement agencies in the EMEA region, plus greater compliance by police in major European countries to share data with TAPA to help its manufacturing and logistics service provider members increase the security of their goods.
“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 crime,” said Thorsten Neumann, chairman of TAPA EMEA. “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.”
However, the system under which crimes are reported is changing, Neumann said. In 2015, TAPA received a record number of intelligence updates from police, which he said is “extremely encouraging,” and could help produce a more accurate picture of cargo crime across EMEA countries.
For example, in 2014, TAPA EMEA’s incident information service recorded only 12 cargo thefts in Belgium. Last year, Belgian police were able to identify and share information with TAPA on 341 cargo crime incidents. This puts Belgium at a similar level with other major supply chain gateways, such as the Netherlands, which recorded 458 cargo crime incidents in 2015, and the United Kingdom, with 367 thefts or attempted thefts recorded last year.
TAPA said it is fostering closer relationships with law enforcement agencies in various EMEA countries, where attacks on facilities and goods in transit are especially high. This includes Germany, France, Italy and South Africa. During the course of 2015, the association organized conferences for supply chain security stakeholders and law enforcement agencies in Germany, South Africa, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain to discuss the challenges of cargo crime.
The association has warned manufacturers and logistics service providers to not automatically assume that a country with a low reported rate of cargo crime presents a lower level of risk of cargo theft. TAPA EMEA’s incident information service annual report for 2015 shows that all goods moving in the supply chain are now at risk of theft. In the last year, the association captured information on cargo crimes in 29 countries across EMEA, including 70 incidents with loss values 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 worth €3 million.
Neumann said that cargo thieves are now targeting all manner of goods, whereas 15 years ago most of the targeted cargo contained high-value technology products. Products with a low unit value, like cigarettes, cosmetic and hygiene products, clothing, shoes, food and drink, are easier to dispose of and harder to trace.
Just 22.5 percent or 341 of the incidents reported to incident information service in 2015 provided a specific loss value, but the combined total for these cargo thefts alone was more than €34.5 million. This resulted in an average loss for the year, based on crimes with a recorded loss value, of about €101,000. Most crimes involved theft from vehicles, usually at unsecured parking locations, such as motorways services, industrial estates or lay-bys close to major highways, when drivers needed to take mandatory rest breaks.
TAPA is also voicing its concern over the increasing number of violent attacks on truck drivers by criminals who are intent on stealing their cargo loads. TAPA recorded incidents of drivers being threatened with knives and guns, as well as physical assaults that led to some drivers being kidnapped and others needing hospital treatment.