Annual cargo theft report: Shipping accounted for less than 1% of cargo theft in 2020

Key findings

  • Thefts of cargo in transit remains highest proportion of total, all though the 71% share is a decrease from 2019 (87%);
  • Losses from warehouses and other storage facilities increases to 25%;
  • An atypical year due to supply chain threats from the pandemic. These likely to be of continued concern well into 2021;
  • New high-value targets created such as PPE, face masks and anti-bacterial gel. Vaccine supply chain to come under threat as roll out expands;
  • Food & beverage sector remains largest target at 31%.
  • Shipping accounted for less than 1% of cargo theft in 2020.

The most significant trend highlighted by the report was the relative shift in the location of thefts, with in-transit incidents and those involving vehicles showing a decline -despite remaining the most dominant threat- and theft from storage facilities increasing.

The extent of the rise in the latter was variable from region to region, but this trend was reflective of the disruption to supply chains, brought about by radical changes to consumer buying patterns as a consequence of the pandemic.

The effects throughout 2020 of the COVID crisis threatened supply chain security, continuity and resilience. Not only did newly created high-value commodities such as PPE become targets for theft, but bottle-necks in the logistics infrastructure at ports and warehouses brought increased potential risks. Temporary overflow storage facilities added to the dangers in loosening the grip of existing security systems,

…explained TT Club’s Managing Director, Loss Prevention, Mike Yarwood.

Although specific incidents have not yet occurred, unless distribution plans for vaccines are perfectly executed within the expectations of any given population, challenges will arise in protecting the single most valuable cargo of all in the coming months, TT Club warned.


In Europe, the stockpiling of goods meant these inventories came under particular threat with 48% of 2020 reported thefts coming from warehouses and production facilities. This was in contrast with 2019 when only 18% came at such locations. On the other hand, 54% of incidents occurred in rest areas and parking sites in 2019, while the 2020 figure was 19%.


In Asia, the countries with the highest risk remain India, Indonesia, China and Bangladesh. The proportion of storage-based risk remains around 50% in Asia as a whole but in Southeast Asia the in-transit risk indicates the prevalence of bribery and corruption with a high percentage of thefts being facilitated by employees and customs or other officials.

-North America

North America continues to see theft coming almost exclusively in-transit via hijackings or directly from a parked vehicle. The risk of social unrest, particularly in Mexico, arguably impacted the risk of cargo loss through most of last year. Significant disruption to the Mexican rail freight industry, with protesters setting up blockades on train tracks, created a backup of cargo across the country. This disruption led to estimated losses of close to US$4.4billion

-South America

In South America, Brazil was a hotspot last year. A key driver of the high rates of cargo theft here remains the presence of major illegal drug smuggling gangs that need to fund their trafficking efforts. Again, the dominant risks were from hijacking and theft from or of vehicles.

These theft types accounted for 78% of the total losses reported. The extreme rate of cargo theft, however, did drop for the first time in several years, as continued efforts by police and industry contributed to a slight decline in incidents in 2020.

In the coming year disruption and the uneven resumption of international trade resulting from the spread of COVID will continue with imbalances in shipping container distribution that are likely to impact maritime, and through a knock-on effect air cargo capacity throughout 2021. The added vulnerability of cargo will therefore continue.

Areas of concern

-Logistics Challenges

  • Local supply chain corruption
  • Supporting infrastructure
  • Availability of reliable resources

-Cargo Theft Risk

  • Actual and perceived cargo value (for use and counterfeiting)
  • Market fluctuations in supply and demand
  • Security provisions/processes
  • Final mile security risks
  • Warehousing and storage security risks
  • Fraudulent actors

-Cargo Integrity

  • Contamination risk
  • Cool chain interruption
  • Damage to retail packages


  • Incorporate service-level agreements
  • Ensure instructions are accurate
  • Keep publicity to a minimum

-Security Devices – Technology Solutions

  • Track/trace GPS devices
  • Tamper proof/evident seals
  • Locks
  • Forensic solutions


  • Carefully plan routes
  • Local knowledge of crime trends
  • Vary regular routes/vehicles


  • Adhere to delivery schedules
  • Communication with contractual partners if deviating from the schedule
  • Deliver only to the address specified
  • Proof of delivery


Explore more by reading the full report:

Cargo theft report 2021

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