Thursdays worst for cargo theft, TT Club finds

Thursdays worst for cargo theft, TT Club finds

Three types of cargo account for nearly half of all theft.

Cargo theft accounts for around 10 percent by volume and cost of all reported claims in the last 10 years, according to TT Club, with criminal organisations able to move stolen cargo through the supply chain almost as efficiently as professional logisticians can ship legitimate goods.

Analysis by the global cargo insurer has revealed that electronics, food and beverage, and clothing comprised more than 40 percent of cargo theft incidents, disrupting the supply chain and leading to direct financial loss.

TT Club Senior Loss Prevention Executive Michael Yarwood wrote in the insurer’s newsletter that there were discernible patterns concerning the days of the week and months of the year in which cargo was stolen. Theft incidents were more frequent between Monday and Friday, with Thursday showing as the most vulnerable day of the week.

“Naturally, the exact patterns will vary from region to region and through the period,” he wrote. “Furthermore, the occurrence of theft will be influenced by factors such as peaks and troughs in freight movement, including ship calls in certain ports. In terms of average value, it is interesting that Sunday indicates a more targeted approach, while Friday thefts are the most lucrative.”

Theft patterns were also revealed in the months. The number of notified thefts through the first and second quarters appeared reasonably stable, with a peak in March, but the incident rate climbed through the third and fourth quarters, peaking in October.

“While again there are regional variations, the patterns are heavily influenced by peak freight movements associated with annual holidays. Valuation averages similarly reflect the commodities commonly associated with consumer holidays.”

TT Club research suggested that there were elevated volumes of cargo theft on key traffic routes from the major import ports and terminals.

“It is perhaps inevitable that a disproportionate amount of cargo will be transported along a limited range of routes from port facilities into the hinterland,” Yarwood said. “The road infrastructure that is developed to support this flow of traffic through to main cities and motorway networks often serves as a bottleneck and there is rarely sufficient availability of secure parking to satisfy demand. For the criminal organisations this provides an obvious feeding ground. While rail and inland waterway movements are less prone to theft, they are not exempt.”

However, Yarwood said the ingenuity of organisations involved in cargo theft could not be underestimated. He gave as an example a report from Dutch authorities in July detailing the activity of a Romanian group arrested for stealing cargo from moving trucks by matching the trucks’ speed and positioning their vehicle in the trucks’ blind spot and removing cargo through the back doors of the trailer.

The subsequent recovery of stolen cargo continues to be challenging, Yarwood said, especially in regions where the resources of the relevant authorities are stretched and have priorities which lie outside of the sphere of cargo crime.

Considering the volume of cargo often stolen, one question which continues to trouble operators and insurers alike is: where does the stolen cargo actually go? Harwood said frequently, such cargo was understood to be re-exported and shipped to various regional markets in reduced quantities to lower suspicions and avoid detection.

“Whichever method is selected, it is evident that criminal organisations are adept at moving stolen cargo through the supply chain almost as efficiently as professional logisticians are able to move legitimate goods,” he wrote.

As in most other spheres of the supply chain, security devices to combat cargo theft are being continually developed or updated, but often their only use is to record the exact time, date, and location of the crime, but does not prevent the cargo being stolen.

However, Yarwood said there were an increasing number of providers developing covert tracking devices that were small enough to fit within a carton or inside the cargo itself. Where undetected by the thief, he said this technology might in time serve to provide the authorities with invaluable information about temporary storage of stolen cargo and also reveal typical routes to market, which may support more complete and rapid recovery, as well as the apprehension of criminals.

Contact Greg Knowler at and follow him on Twitter: @greg_knowler.