October 05, 2020: Over €85 million of products were stolen from air, road, sea and rail freight supply chains in 46 countries in the Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) region in the first half of 2020, even with national Covid-related lockdowns restricting people and vehicle movements, according to the latest data from the Transported Asset Protection Association’s (TAPA) Incident Information Service (IIS).

While the activities of opportunist, adhoc cargo thieves almost certainly reduced in the first six months of the year, TAPA said its H1 2020 intelligence indicates the strong presence of Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) across the EMEA region, and suggests many were ‘stealing to order’ given the number of losses of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other in-demand goods such as food and drink and cosmetics and hygiene products.

Overall, for the first 182 days of 2020, TAPA’s IIS database recorded 3,278 cargo theft incidents with a total loss of €85,166,106 for the 2,154 or 65.7 percent of these crimes reporting a value.

Over €52 million of the H1 2020 loss total was attributed to 96 major incidents; classified as those crimes with individual losses of goods worth €100,000 or more. The average value of products stolen in these cases was €542,761.

The supply and demand nature of the black market for stolen goods prompted a noticeable spate of thefts of PPE equipment as offenders looked to cash in on one of the most sought-after products to help fight the outbreak of the coronavirus. In the biggest single loss of PPE, two million face masks and other PPE equipment valued at €5,000,000 were stolen from an Origin Facility warehouse in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain in April. Other similar thefts included in EMEA region:

  • Millions of respiratory masks stolen from an aviation facility in Kenya on March 20
  • 50,000 medical suits taken from a shipping warehouse in Turkey on April 7

Thorsten Neumann, president and CEO of TAPA EMEA, said that the latest figures have quickly dispelled any hopes that national lockdowns during the height of the pandemic would eradicate cargo losses. “It clearly takes more than a global pandemic to stop the activities of Organised Crime Groups. Anecdotal evidence also suggests an increase in cases of ‘stealing to order’ for goods in high demand during the early months of the pandemic. Our IIS database recorded a higher than usual number of incidents in which, for example, multiple vehicles in parking locations had their tarpaulin curtains slashed by thieves looking for products but no goods were taken in the attacks. This indicates offenders had very specific types of products in mind – and, almost certainly, black market customers already lined up to buy the goods,” he added.

Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was out of the 10 highest value incidents reported to TAPA EMEA involved seven-figure financial losses. On April 10, a truck carrying a shipment of phones costing €1,033,877 was hijacked while en route to a warehouse facility.

Outside of the €1 million plus thefts, out of the next 10 highest loss incidents reported to TAPA’s IIS between January 1 - June 30 were €524,457 in South Africa. The hijacking of a truck loaded with soap and hand sanitiser products in Midrand in Gauteng province on May 26.

TAPA also continued to see more reporting of cargo crimes in Africa, with incidents recorded in 19 nations: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Congo, Côte d’lvoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“One of the outcomes of the Covid outbreak has been the global focus on supply chain resilience. The level of cargo crime during the lockdown will also focus the minds of companies to make their operations more secure, and TAPA is best-placed to help them with this through our highly-respected industry standards, training and incident intelligence programmes to support risk management and loss prevention. Although TAPA has very important intelligence sharing partnerships with law enforcement agencies in some of the major European countries, the overall percentage of all cargo crime reporting to our IIS database across the entire EMEA region remains only a small percentage of what we believe to be the true figure, which we estimate runs into billions of euros of losses a year. We actively encourage more police forces to work with us because incident intelligence is the most effective tool in our industry’s programme to significantly reduce cargo thefts from supply chains,” Neumann said.

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