Cargo Theft


Cargo security is among the world’s greatest challenges today due to a number of factors, among them cargo theft. It can be appreciated that most business organizations operate in supply chain systems that rely on the transportation of cargo in large volumes either as raw materials, semi finished products or the end products on their way to the market. Regardless of the state in which the cargo is, the threat of theft inflicts such great losses on the organization in question such that it prompts the question of what can be done to thwart it. Despite the advanced anti theft technology including alarms and tracking systems, it can be noted that numerous companies continue to register major losses due to cargo theft. This papers uses cargo security management concepts to examine the problem of cargo theft and recommends remedy measures.

Literature Review

Cargo security management has been considered as a system through which cargo can be secured and protected from any form of unauthorized access or tampering that includes theft and damaging. Cargo theft has been defined as a criminal undertaking in which goods, chattels, money or any baggage that has been considered as a part of a commercial shipping is stolen while in transit through a pipeline, air, road, rail or water, or in a depot, dock or even storehouse while on its way to or from the manufacturers (Burges, 2012). This implies that there are various avenues within which cargo theft can occur. The legal definition of cargo theft also includes the theft of money that is being transported from one point in a supply chain to another. This is the acceptable definition that thus informs the rest of this discussion. As such, cargo theft does not only affect manufacturers or importers but also smaller businesses that need to transfer goods, money or baggage from one point to another and are thus open to the risk of loss through theft.

The Freight Watch International 2013 Global Cargo Theft Risk Threat Assessment report indicated that Cargo theft is heavily dependent on social, cultural and economic factors for the specific country in question (Christopher, 2014). This implies a certain difficulty in predicting regional trends in cargo theft thus requiring domestic solutions that can only work within the specific circumstances of the studied country. As such, cargo security management cannot be undertaken in a global dimension even for the global organizations. There is a dire need for a localized approach that will ensure efficiency in the actions undertaken seeing as the circumstances in one country may not necessarily represent the rest of the countries within the region. Organizations are thus expected to carry out individual studies that can enable them to understand the countries through which their cargo passes so as to deal with the threats in a manner that is not only relevant but also highly effective.

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According to the Europol Cargo theft reports, there are a number of ways through which cargo is stolen and these include hijacking where there is force and violence (Christopher, 2014). Another one is theft of the vehicle of vessel of transport when left unattended, breaking into the vehicle in the absence of those in charge possibly when packed in unattended areas and deception where the drivers are tricked into delivering the goods in a different address and not that expected by the company in question. In addition, the cargo could be stolen while at a warehouse awaiting transportation to the company in question when the warehouse is broken into by burglars and robbers. Regardless of the mode of theft, the stolen items are often of great value and end up imposing major losses in the company or their insurers.

In order to prevent cargo theft, drivers and cargo transporters are often encouraged to be alert and to keep checking on the cargo while also upholding other stringent security measures that are supposed to keep them and the cargo safe throughout the transportation to the company (Coughlin, 2013). The main activities emphasized on include parking in safe areas, meeting the delivery times to avoid having to park outside the reception area, checking the seals and ensuring that they have been secured all through the journey and also getting in touch with the authorities in case of suspicion of being trailed. Cargo vehicles are often targeted based on what they are carrying and thus it is important for the drivers to know what they are carrying and whether they are at a high risk to be more alert.


As a concept that is very critical in supply chain management, cargo security management is about ensuring that the goods in transit reach their designated destination without suffering any losses or tampering. The idea here is to get the products to the company in question with minimal inconvenience where possible. Looking at the definition of cargo theft, it can be noted that the numerous threats are largely preventable if the mechanisms used by those responsible are consistent and airtight. This paper will consider hijacking, theft of the vehicle, theft at the warehouse and breaking in to the vehicle.


Cargo transportation is expected to be secure given the fact that whoever is in charge of the transportation is fully aware of the value of the goods being transported and how important it is for them to arrive at their destination safely (Coughlin, 2013). On one hand, the idea that hijackings are often unpredictable implies the need to have a security measure like tracking devices for the vehicle and the goods as well given that there are cases where the hijackers even get the time to transfer the cargo to another vehicle. In order to also prevent being hijacked, the drivers are expected to be alert and thus to sport any suspicious vehicles and characters while on transit.

Theft of the Vehicle

This is often taken lightly but it has been reported a number of times, where the driver leaves the vehicle unattended and it ends up being stolen along with the cargo. In some cases, this can be coincidental but there are such thefts where the thieves know exactly what they are stealing and can thus be considered as premeditated. The vehicles being left unattended is rather careless especially if it is unlocked and the engine is running or the keys are inside. This could be a mistake but, a costly one that can only be attributed to human error (Bichou, Bell & Evans, 2009). The mitigating factor would be the presence of a tracking device that can be used to locate the vehicle and the cargo once reported to the authorities. In addition, if the cargo was locked in effectively the thief may be unable to access it fast enough to change the vehicle thus making it much easier to locate and apprehend them while recovering the cargo.

Theft at the Warehouse

Most warehouses are heavily guarded and the fact that they can be broken into often indicates a loophole in the security system being used. Most cases have been labeled as inside jobs but in the absence of concrete proof this is often a challenge to prove. It can thus be appreciated that a warehouse must have adequate security systems that include cameras, alarms and locks that are not only unbreakable but also largely specific with enough details in terms of granting access (Thomas, 2010). Others rely on security key cards that can be easily duplicated or even stolen, and others also rely on fingerprints which can also be circumvented by the experts. It is important to create a combination of security measures that would make it extremely difficult for the burglars to break in.

Breaking In To the Vehicle

Airports are relatively secure compared to ports and docks as well as pipelines. This means that air freight is often much safer once at the airport compared to those at the port or the docks and the pipelines. While on the ship, the pipeline or the truck, the cargo is exposed to theft unless it has been well secured by locks and alarms that would alert those in charge in case someone tries to access it. The important thing here is to ensure that the transport vessel is under full time surveillance to deter any thieves from exploiting the loopholes.


Cargo security is a tricky concept seeing as it is one of the most risky aspects for manufacturers and importers as well as other businesses. It is often considered fundamental to have basic mechanisms for cargo security management across the organization but the local factors must also be considered for relevance when formulating these measures. It follows that whether the cargo is at the airport or port or pipeline, or even en route to the company, there is a need to keep an eye on it and report any suspicious characters that may be targeting the cargo. Moreover, while there is always the possibility that there was a collusion, it is important to enforce air tight measures that will deter even those who know the cargo’s security measures well from attempting to break through it.

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