• Market News

Rising Cargo Thefts Prompt New Security Solutions By: Amanda Vicinanzo, Contributing Editor

With cargo thefts reaching an all-time high in 2012 and 2013 and cargo theft rings continuing to grow in sophistication, logistics and transportation companies must begin investing in the cargo security solutions and technologies necessary to prevent these numbers from climbing higher.


An annual report on global cargo theft trends released back in March by Freightwatch International, a global logistics security services company that aims to mitigate risks associated with cargo theft, indicated that a record 951 cargo thefts were recorded in 2012 and again in 2013 -- an average of 2.6 incidents per day or 79.25 incidents per month.


Reluctance to adopt new technologies to secure the supply chain is one of the main reasons behind the climb in supply chain thefts, according to Jim Giermanski, chairman of container security company Powers International, Inc., told Homeland Security Today.


“Both senior and middle managers, simply don’t know or appreciate the value of securing their firms’ supply chain, or if recognized, they are not willing to take the risk of using new technologies. Of course, once they ‘get it’ you’ll see an increase in combating these cargo thefts,” explained Giermanski.


Although Freightwatch’s latest quarterly report indicates that cargo thefts declined by roughly 11 percent between March and May of this year compared to 2013, the average loss-value per incident rose by 90 percent. In this quarter FreightWatch recorded a total of 183 thefts in the United States, with 80 thefts in March, 55 in April and 48 in May with an average loss value per incident of $242,010.


“It is not unusual to see a decrease in the total volume of thefts while seeing a spike in high value thefts,” Giermanski said. “If one takes the chance of committing a crime, the value of the target-cargo must be worth the risk.”


Giermanski indicates that one of the reasons behind the high rates of cargo theft and rising loss value per incident, is the ease of stealing cargo. He explained, “It’s not so much of a question of sophistication, but one of opportunity.”


While logistics and transportation firms have stepped up to the plate to provide solutions to the increase in cargo thefts, many firms remain averse to adopting what they see as overly expensive new technologies.


However, Giermanski argued, “These managers do not understand the financial benefit of using security systems to protect the cargo whether you are a shipper or carrier. The focus for carriers is their tractor. That’s why when they use a tracking device, it’s on their property, the tractor, not on the container or trailer carrying the ‘other guys’ property, even though they depend on the ‘other guys,’ the shippers for business.”


While some shipping companies may believe that the financial costs of upgrading their security technologies outweigh the potential benefits, the risks are not merely financial. Inadequate supply chain protection and failure to prevent surreptitious entries not only enables cargo theft, but also opens up the possibility of the conveyance becoming a host for contraband, such as narcotics and bombs.


“In one demo we used a housewife and a philosophy professor who knew nothing about trailers or containers to enter a sealed conveyance and place into it fake drugs and a fake bomb, showing that these conveyances can be used not only as targets of theft, but also as hosts for dirty bombs, in effect as weapons of mass destruction,” Giermanski said.


With the climb in cargo theft numbers, however, more and more logistics and transportation firms are investing in advanced freight security measures according to US Security Associates (USA), a national security company that specializes in cargo security and provides solutions ranging from low-risk route planning to cargo escorts to advanced monitoring technologies.


USA emphasizes protection of the supply chain from departure to arrival. This process includes remaining in constant contact with dispatch centers, reporting progress at every stop along the way, keeping trip logs, documenting suspicious or unusual activity en route, monitoring national trends to know where cargo is most at risk and providing tracking mechanisms for all vehicles.


“Not a single moment passes during the entire process without protective surveillance,” said USA’s Senior Vice President of National Accounts Alton Harvey.


Technology is advancing to match the rising number of cargo thefts, but it remains to be seen whether firms will invest in the technologies necessary to see supply chain thefts decrease in 2014.


Editor's note: For more on this and other security issues regarding trans-border cargo and freight shipments and transportation, read the following Homeland Security Today reports and commentaries.