Supply bottlenecks lead thieves to target storage facilities

2 March 2021

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global supply chains and logistics has led to a changing pattern of cargo thefts, with criminals increasingly targeting ports and warehouses.

The annual BSI & TT Club Cargo Theft Report found thefts of cargo in transit remained the highest proportion of all thefts – though the share was down to 71% from 87% in 2019 – while losses from warehouses and other storage facilities increased to 25%.

“The most significant trend... was the relative shift in the location of thefts, with in-transit incidents and those involving vehicles showing a decline, though remaining the most dominant threat, and theft from storage facilities increasing,” said the report.

“This trend was reflective of the disruption to supply chains brought about by radical changes to consumer buying patterns as a consequence of the pandemic.”

Mike Yarwood, managing director at TT Club, said: “The effects throughout 2020 of the Covid crisis threatened supply chain security, continuity and resilience.

“Not only did newly created high-value commodities such as PPE become targets for theft but bottlenecks in the logistics infrastructure at ports and warehouses brought increased potential risks. Temporary overflow storage facilities added to the dangers in loosening the grip of existing security systems.” 

Yarwood warned that vaccine supply chains would present a tempting target for thieves unless care was taken to ensure their security. 

“Although specific incidents have not yet occurred, unless distribution plans for vaccines are perfectly executed within the expectations of any given population, challenges will arise in protecting the single most valuable cargo of all in the coming months,” he said.

The food and beverage sector remained the largest target, accounting for 31% of all cargo theft.

The extent of the rise in the theft from storage facilities varied from region to region.

In Europe, the stockpiling of goods meant inventories came under particular threat and 48% of 2020 reported thefts came from warehouses and production facilities.

In 2019 only 18% came at such locations while 54% of incidents occurred in rest areas and parking sites in 2019, compared to 19% in 2020. 

The highest risk Asian countries remain India, Indonesia, China and Bangladesh. In Asia a high percentage of thefts were facilitated by employees and customs or other officials.

North American cargo theft occurred almost exclusively in-transit via hijackings or from a parked vehicle.

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