Cargo Security: Protection of the Global Supply Chain

Other · 5 min read · Aug 05, 2022
cargo security


Though the world has modernized all ways of living, but the risk of theft still exists as a significant problem in every society. According to an estimate presented by the European Union; cargo theft comprises of approximately 8.2 billion Euros per year which increases the importance of cargo security

The figures provided by the EU are just a rough estimate as calculating the exact value of the stolen goods is quite a tough task due to various factors. One of these includes many theft incidents going unreported.

Apart from that, the loss due to cargo theft is often difficult to be reported accurately because the transport industries involved provide only a limited data and also there is an absence of any law enforcement agency which can regulate such reporting and tracking on an international level. However, keeping accurate track of losses is becoming more vital as an increasing demand of various goods and effective transportation has an economical impact.

Statistical analysis of cargo theft cases

Generally the statistics indicate that the majority of the cargo theft cases occur during the phase when goods are being driven from one place to another. The driving phase accounts for up to 41% of these incidents when thieves threaten a driver and then steal the goods from a loaded unit.

In 15% cases, when the driver is not being threatened by them, the loaded truck itself gets stolen. Hijacking and robbery; accounts for up to 15% of the other cargo theft cases.

Shipping containers stacked and ready for transportation.

An analysis by International Road Transport Union

A report issued in 2008 by the International Road Transport Union shows that in approximately 63% of the total theft cases; the trucks and the loaded goods were targeted however, in the remaining 43 percent of the cases, either the goods were stolen from truck or the belongings of the driver were taken away.

Majority of these thefts were carried out when the trucks were in a parking zone (stands for up to 42% of the cases). However, 19% of the cases occurred on motorways.

It means that thefts usually occurred when the trucks were present in a resting area where they are temporarily parked. When the cargo transport is held for its loading and unloading, it also provides a great opportunity for thieves to attack as the unit and driver is in a vulnerable state.  

FBI and Cargo Security

As the Federal Bureau of Investigation states that cargo which is not less than the worth of 30 billion dollars is lost annually. The loss due to these thefts possesses less danger as compared to the one which is imposed by criminals sneaking either a bomb or any drug inside the transit containers. It makes the process of strengthening a supply chain critically vulnerable and increases the need of advanced cargo security.

Basic protective measures

In order to provide cargo security, supply chain security experts are trained to apply a multi layered security approach which takes use of basic security practices along with latest technology.

Apart from these internal approaches to protect goods related to an organization, the federal bureau and associated laws for border protection take care of the cargo security needed at any port of a country. In order to secure a supply chain, it’s important to evaluate areas which require constant improvement.

Customs trade partnership agreements between foreign seaports also play a vital role in mitigating factors that are a threat for stakeholders.

A brief introduction to supply chain system

Supply chain can be defined as a network composed of processes which are autonomous or semi autonomous resulting in the production of physical goods for the usage of customers. Logistics has its part in it as every activity which supplies these goods from their suppliers to their customers is dependent upon it. It is necessary that the right product is delivered at the right place at the right time.

In order to successfully accomplish this procedure, it is required that the provided information is accurate and every single operation is properly carried out. The transport network plays its part in physically moving these goods from one place to another within a specific supply chain with an aim to reach the goal of logistics by fulfilling its scope and therefore consists of several interconnected supply chains.  

Elements of a transport system

Every system has various components and so does a transport system, and transport demand management is one of key players in keeping the system functioning. It has three basic elements which include vehicles, freight and terminals or ways. A lack of sufficient cargo security at locations and of carriers during the physical transport of material from a consignor to its consignee makes the shipped products vulnerable to theft.

Different methods are adopted by thieves in order to steal products from different locations of a transport system. These locations are usually considered to be geographically fixed for short periods of time for example a vehicle which is moving on a route. Its movement is predictable in terms of a location but not predictable in terms of time.

Cargo being loaded into aircrafts which are ready for departure.

Importance of cargo security or supply chain security

In recent years, as there has been seen an increase in the ratio of cargo theft cases, the cargo security or supply chain security has gained the attention of researchers.

The practitioners are involved in the study of vulnerabilities associated with supply chain which was previously neglected by all researchers unless and until the 9/11 terrorist attack occurred. The vulnerability of a supply chain is its sensitivity towards any kind of alteration or disruption which can put the entire supply chain at risk.

Evolving tactics of cargo thieves

History shows that previously the cargo thieves used to target goods of higher values such as electronic appliances. However, as a response, the supply chain experts implemented innovative measures to tackle their tactics in order to secure these shipments.

As these measures were taken up, the thieves shifted towards goods with comparatively lower values which propagated newer problems for the supply chain management. The increase in the intensity of this problem and refined ways of thieves is indeed a great problem to deal with.

Ways to combat cargo theft

In order to combat a cargo theft, it is essential to have a multi layered approach which has been developed to assist in every situation which an organization might have to face. It incorporates all available strategies and implies them to all levels.

However, it is necessary to acknowledge that a basic strategic method without constant improvements is rendered ineffective when thieves use innovative methods to attack. Therefore, a constant check and balance to ensure all security gaps are filled is required.

An organization must build strong connection with its employees and business partners. When the staff isn’t well trained to deal with complex situations, their insufficient decision making power can put an entire supply chain at risk. Therefore an extensive training program which is undergone biannually and great communication is the key to avoid such incidents.

The moving goods are always at stake and therefore the freight needs a tight security check in. For this purpose, almost all companies have adopted an enhanced identification process for the delivery workers. But still, the goods are never fully secure as criminals are always looking to find one or another way to access it.

Cargo trucks driving down a road leading down the mountain.

Concluding remarks

Cargo theft has increased in the recent years and therefore the need for cargo security has also increased exponentially. The supply chain is vulnerable at various locations and criminals attack at different spots to steal goods. The risk of goods being stolen is always present therefore securing a supply chain requires innovative strategies and trained personnel to avoid such incidents.

It is not only the job of official government organization, border protection but also transportation security administration to provide security services for high risk cargo. To ship valuable cargo, the air freight medium is often chosen as it is quite efficient and faster than any other medium, therefore air cargo security is of paramount importance for global supply chain agencies.

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Jet pilot @NASA

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