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Cargo heists on the rise – counting the cost of security

Home Transport & Logistics Commercial & Fleet Cargo heists on the rise – counting the cost of security

AN unprecedented surge in international freight rates of up to 700 percent is putting many companies under enormous pressure and forcing them to take drastic measures to ensure their sustainability.

That’s according to Martin Taylor, Risk Manager at Rhenus Logistics South Africa, who said that in some cases, organisations are left with little choice but to find areas where they can cut costs when moving cargo, including reducing cargo security expenses.

But with South Africa’s soaring crime rate, this approach could have dangerous and unintended consequences, he warned, saying his company was exploring ways to minimise threats and ensure the integrity of its customers’ shipments, whilst reducing costs.

The number of reported truck hijackings in South Africa has escalated over the past year by an alarming 32 percent. According to Statista Research Department, 1,202 truck hijackings occurred between April 2019 and March 2020, often ending with violent attacks on drivers.

With the sharp increase in online shopping because of COVID-19, courier vehicles are now increasingly being targeted too. Heightened activity by organised syndicates, as well as opportunistic incidents, are a reality, Taylor said.

“Criminals have become much more brazen in their approach. The industry is now experiencing far more orchestrated heists, with groups of up to 25 robbers going after one delivery vehicle,” said in a recent interview with television programme Carte Blanche.

“It has become a strategy of ‘shoot first, steal later’, which means that cargo drivers are now more at risk than ever. Although high-value goods are most sought-after, all cargo is at risk, which means that all deliveries are vulnerable.”

He said Rhenus Logistics South Africa follows the latest security protocols, including ongoing anti-hijacking training for drivers, as well as vehicle tracking and on-board video surveillance that is monitored 24/7 by highly trained control room personnel.

“Cargo crime is not only going to continue but will increase. Law enforcement bodies, including the crime intelligence unit of the South African Police Service, have expanded their operations and are doing what they can, but they don’t have the capacity to fight crime by themselves. It needs to be a collective effort involving all stakeholders, including the public.

“The logistics and security industries are collaborating and sharing information and resources in efforts to combat ongoing crime,” Taylor said.

The company’s Chief Operating Officer Rob Stead said that in a financially constrained environment, it was understandable that importers would look for ways to reduce costs, and the temptation to cut on security can be great. According to, the cost of security in the supply chain can be as much as 11 percent of the value of goods.

Stead cautioned, however, that theft results not just in lost sales, but also has the potential for reputational damage should an importer’s brand be associated with a public incident. “And, of course, our biggest concern is for the safety of staff members and the public that needs to be ensured at all times.”

Stead believes it is important for cargo owners to carefully consider areas of risk mitigation, to optimise these expenses.

“Security awareness and agile, proactive risk management are essential. Importers needing to have their goods transported should partner with companies that have highly developed security protocols and systems in place, such as 24/7 camera surveillance. This will minimise risk and help them build more secure and resilient supply chains.”

He said the key to successful risk management is vigilance and agility in adapting cargo handling processes.

“With our many years of experience and our global footprint, we are well-equipped to stay one step ahead in the fight against crime. It’s an ongoing process as syndicates become more and more sophisticated – so we need to constantly evaluate developments and stay ahead of the criminals.”

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