Global insight

Why thieves find air cargo thefts a soft option

Why thieves find air cargo thefts a soft option

A 10.3 per cent surge in cargo theft crimes – averaging more than eight acts of plunder every single day – were carried out in 41 countries across the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region last year, forcing supply chain companies to radically review their anti-theft attitudes.

With a record 2,880 reported cargo theft incidents in 2017 – the collective loss for which alone exceeded a total of €105 million, despite the fact that only 58.6 per cent of them submitted a definitive value – created an average theft ‘valuation’ of €395,586 for each major crime, writes Nigel Tomkins.

Some 89.9 per cent, or 2,019 of the recorded losses, occurred when cargo-carrying trucks were stationary at unsecured parking locations, points out supply chain security watchdog Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA).

Many of the targeted vehicles contained high value air cargo shipments on their way either to or from airport locations.

Over the last five years or so, cargo losses involving trucks have dominated incident rates in the EMEA region. Some 90 per cent of recorded cargo crimes now occur when thieves target trucks, usually when drivers have to take mandatory rest breaks.

The lack of secure parking places, particularly in Europe, only adds to the vulnerability of trucks, their loads and the drivers.

In terms of losses recorded at air cargo facilities/airports, here are two shocking examples of the last year:

Two shocking examples of air cargo thefts in 2017

In February, thieves escaped with rare 15th and 16th century antique books valued at more than €2.3million after breaking into a facility at London’s Heathrow Airport. The books were waiting to be airfreighted to the USA. The offenders evaded the building’s complex security system by climbing onto its roof, bored holes through a reinforced glass-fibre skylight and then abseiled 40 feet onto the interior floor of the premises. Once inside, they also managed to avoid the sophisticated motion sensor alarms in the facility before fleeing with 160 irreplaceable books.

In another major cargo theft incident from last year, another crime at an airport location saw thieves masquerading as police officers whilst using what were reported as ‘police vehicles’ intercepting a cargo of €1.7million of banknotes shortly after it arrived on a flight at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport last March.

The increasing problem of cargo theft has led to a record take-up of TAPA’s supply chain security standards, with certified facilities and truck operators now found in 60 countries.

TAPA, which claims to be the world’s leading supply chain security expertise network, marked its 20th anniversary in 2017 and saw a 16.6 per cent increase in the number of Facility Security Requirements (FSR) certifications and a 41.5 per cent growth in companies with Trucking Security Requirements (TSR) certifications.

By the end of 2017 there were 645 FSR locations in EMEA and 126 companies meeting the TSR security standard, contributing to an overall 46.6 per cent rise in FSR certifications and 85.3 per cent of TSR certifications since the association launched its ‘Step-up, Stand-out’ campaign two years ago aimed at encouraging more manufacturers and logistics service providers to adopt its standards, widely-respected as offering the leading supply chain security template.

Air shipments on trucks targeted by cargo theft gangs

The levels of rising crime within cargo supply chains across the region saw increases in certifications in each quarter of 2017, ending the year with a 124.3 per cent rise in FSR numbers in the fourth quarter and a 71.4 per cent growth of companies adopting TAPA’s TSR Standard.

This included an increased level of certifications in the top 10 countries with FSR certifications: Netherlands, UK, Italy, Spain, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, France, Czech Republic and Belgium.

Similarly, the top five countries with TSR-certified companies – notably the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Belgium and the UK – also saw higher certifications year-on-year.

Mark Gruentjes, head of standards at TAPA in the EMEA region, comments: “The number of FSR and TSR certifications in the region is now higher than at any time in our 20-year history. Not only are more companies recognising the value of operating TAPA-approved facilities and trucking services to combat rising crime, the increase can also be attributed to more manufacturers asking or requiring their logistics service providers to meet the requirements of TAPA security standards.”

Companies that want to know more about the registration processes, which include both self-certification, or endorsement by TAPA-approved independent audit bodies, should contact the association. “We expect to see more companies adopting FSR and TSR in 2018, and we will support them with advice, guidance and training,” Gruentjes insists.

TAPA offers a roadmap for unified global cargo security standards, providing shared industry practices, related technology, education, benchmarking, regulatory collaboration, and the proactive identification of crime trends and supply chain security threats.

It is rolling out a new Parking Security Requirements (PSR) standard for EMEA in 2018, to build a network of secure parking places for trucks, particularly in Europe.

Formed in 1997 to tackle the escalating problem of cargo thefts from the supply chain, TAPA now boasts more than 800 member companies globally, including many of the world’s biggest manufacturers and logistics service providers, as well as leading small- and medium-sized forwarders and transport operators and other stakeholders.

Read more stories about disruption to the air cargo supply chain here

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