Cargo Theft: Not Just a US Problem

Mexico’s number of cargo thefts grew 73 percent in 2015. According to FreightWatch International’s supply chain report, 1087 incidents were reported. Northern Mexico’s cargo thefts rose significantly, although the central zone states of Puebla, Guanajuato and the State of Mexico remain the highest risks. Food and drink continue to be the most stolen items, accounting for 18 percent of all cargo theft. Fuel cargo was subject to multiple hijackings in transit. Warehouse robberies were also a common theft method. Mexico reports at least three cargo theft incidents per day, versus two in the U.S.,, and the Mexican trucking industry is minuscule compared to that of the United States. August through September continue to be months with the most supply chain security issues in Mexico.

But Mexico is not alone. There has been a sharp increase in thefts from moving trucks in China, according to BSI’s 2015 annual report on supply chain security. This type of theft, which has also been seen recently in Europe, is known as “open sunroof thefts” because thieves in these incidents drive cars behind cargo trucks, jump on to the moving vehicles, cut a hole in the top of the soft-sided trailer and toss cargo back to the car behind. BSI reported moving cargo theft incidents in numerous Chinese provinces. Examples included $55,000 worth of pharmaceuticals and a $40,000 theft of leather goods. A key issue that prevents effective response to cargo theft in China is confusion over which police force or enforcement agency has jurisdiction. This complicates reporting of cargo theft incidents and allows gangs to operate longer before capture.

Meanwhile, in India, the prevailing trend is toward more sophisticated cargo theft techniques. These include the diversion of shipments to locations where the contents of the truck are removed – generally by cutting panels, leaving the cargo security seals intact. Thieves are increasingly relying on corrupt supply chain employees to facilitate their crimes.

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Other trends in supply chain security around the world include a reduction in incidents in some western European countries, including the Netherlands and the UK.

In South Africa, cargo robberies are increasingly violent. Last year, most of their incidents were believed to be perpetrated by current or former police or security officers, often involving sophisticated tactics to carry out high-value cargo thefts, according to BSI.

In Latin America, thefts have decreased in some countries—notably Columbia—and markedly increased in others, such as Chile, where an average of three trucks are stolen every day. In Argentina, there has been a shift from targeting full-sized trucks to smaller vehicles such as vans. Incidents in Peru reveal the perils of relying on too much technology to thwart thieves. Thieves recently stole a loaded container of electronics after reportedly using a falsified copy of a supposedly impossible-to-forge electronic document, thereby allowing them to pick up the container from the port.

In the United States, 86 percent of cargo thefts are still reported from unsecured parking spots at truck stops. But it’s only a matter of time before other methods, now threatening supply chain security around the world, become more prevalent here.

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