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Cargo Theft and Fraud Report: 2023 update

Each year, BSI, TT Club and TAPA release a report detailing the global trends and risks to supply chains with regards to cargo transportation on land, air and sea. We provide a 2023 update and analysis on the projections and findings.

Cargo theft is a major threat to supply chains. It hits road transport – and drivers – especially hard, as goods are particularly vulnerable to theft while in transit. From food and beverages to high-end electronics, cargo thieves continue to target commodities that can be sold easily on the black market. Food is at an ever growing risk of theft, as criminals seek ‘low risk, high reward’ targets and retailers and manufacturers are playing into their hands. Opportunistic thieves can make almost all goods fair game. Knowing emerging tactics and trends can help your business recognise the vulnerabilities and prevent fraudulent activity within your supply chain.

2023 Report: Overview

Global supply chain intelligence provide BSI, logistics and transport mutual insurer TT Club, and the Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) EMEA have released their annual report on cargo theft risks and activity.

The 2022 report found that the industry continued to face significant security, continuity, and resiliency threats due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and although its impact seemed to lessen in the early stages of 2022, it had caused disruptions and major delays throughout 2021, and still had massive residual impacts globally. Many of the concerns BSI, TT Club, and TAPA EMEA monitored throughout 2021 set the tone for continued risk to supply chain security in 2022. Simultaneously, new challenges and risks were likely to play a large role, such as the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which was disrupting many industries on the short-term, and could have a variety of long-term effects.

The 2023 report indicates that thefts from hijacking fell as a proportion of cargo theft from 24.4% to 17.0% in 2022. Theft from facilities now accounts for more than a quarter of total thefts, increasing from 24.2% to 26.0%. Food and beverages remain the most stolen commodity, growing considerably in 2022 by 2.8%. Automotive and fuel thefts are also up, and electronics, agriculture, and construction theft have fallen. Although hijacking has also fallen as a proportion of cargo theft, it continues to exert a real impact on global supply chains. Food, pharmaceuticals, and construction materials were affected the most.

Another of the report’s key findings is that unprecedented price inflation, exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war, but also an enduring legacy of COVID-19-related shutdowns and the resulting prolonged shortage of key manufacturing components, has awakened governments to the importance of global supply chains to national interests. This has led to the launch of new legislation such as the CHIPS Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the US, and increased GPDR regulations across the EU, the combination of which is placing greater accountability on suppliers and purchasers. Government intervention spans efforts to bolster domestic supply chains, reduce carbon emissions, and enhance governance.

Carrier fraud, in which criminals imitate hauliers and other sub-contractors, including drivers with falsified documents, accounted for 84% of TT claims involving fraud or deception in 2022. TT is eager to pinpoint these risks and offer advice to industry on how to not just identify potential fraud but to minimize and avoid losses through them.

The report identifies six imperatives that businesses will need to address, including:

  • Monitoring rapidly changing regulatory agendas
  • Having a strong buy-in from top-level leadership
  • Address digital risk—not one organisation has solved this threat
  • Invest in tools and technology such as data analysis, IoT, cloud computing, information security, and predictive analysis
  • Be aware of the different, unique challenges facing each sector’s supply chain
  • Data, the metaverse, and cybersecurity will differentiate organizations’ approaches to building a solid supply chain

According to Susan Taylor Martin, Chief Executive of the British Standards Institution (BSI). “Given the turbulence of the last twelve months, 2023 will be an important watershed for many businesses– with those that successfully manage their supply chain risks being more likely to thrive.”

Jim Yarbrough, Global Intelligence Program Manager at BSI, said: “…Without intervention, businesses will see dramatic impacts on their bottom line, meaning that discussing supply chain issues at the C-suite level can help to ensure investments are funnelled to suppliers, building resilience to threats and supporting financial sustainability.”

NaVCIS and BSI Report: Key Statistics

Given the importance of supply chain resilience to the UK economy, you’d hope the issue of cargo crime was resonating at the highest political level. Freight movements in the UK account for 152bn tonne-kilometres annually and the industry – the fifth largest employer – contributes some £12bn to the national economy or £124bn in Gross Added Value (GAV). However, despite the importance of supply chains to national operations and infrastructure, a report from NaVCIS estimates that freight crime costs the United Kingdom economy some £420 million (€485m) a year. BSI also reports that a staggering 22% of transport operators have highlighted security as a key challenge for the future of the industry and the sustainability of their companies.

Areas of the country with higher cargo flow, like the Golden Logistics Triangle in the West Midlands, are more often targeted, according to Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA). However, ports like Felixstowe, Blackpool and Belfast, as well as industrial areas outside London, are rife with road freight theft incidents.

In 2020, TAPA EME recorded 3,100 cargo theft incidents across the UK. The 83.7% crimes sharing a value produced a total loss of over £92 million. In the 18 months to the end of June 2022, a further 1,573 incidents were added to the Association’s crime database, including major incidents with an average loss of €250,833.

Top Cargo Theft Trends in 2022 (Source: BSI)

According to the BSI report, the top commodities stolen in 2022 were food & beverage (17%) fuel (9%), agriculture (9%) and electronics (9%). The study found that a strong increase in idle times led to an increase in cargo targeted at rest. Heald Managing Director Debbie Heald MBE shares the importance of perimeter protection for sites and locations where HGVs park: “To help stop HGV theft, haulage, delivery, and freight companies should consider implementing physical security products to mitigate theft and attacks.

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